Friday, 20 July, 2018 - 12:26 pm

          A contractor requested quotes to build two apartments.

The Irish builder quoted him $500,000: “$200,000 for labor, and $300,000 for materials.”

The Scottish builder quoted him, “$600,000. $300,000 for labor and $300,000 for materials.”

The Jewish builder quoted $1 million.

The contractor asked, "How did arrive at that figure?"

"Easy," came the reply. “$250,000 for you, $250,000 for me, and we will get the Irishman to do the job."

On the ninth day of the month of Av (Tisha B'Av) in the year 70 CE, the Roman legions in Jerusalem smashed through the fortress tower of Antonia into the Holy Temple and set it afire. In the blackened remains of the sanctuary lay more than the ruins of the great Jewish revolt for political independence; it appeared that Judaism itself was shattered beyond repair.

Of approximately four to five million Jews in the world, over a million died in that war for independence. So many Jews were sold into slavery and given to circuses and gladiatorial arenas that the price of slaves dropped precipitously, fulfilling the ancient curse: "There you will be offered for sale as slaves, and there will be no one willing to buy." The destruction was preceded by events so devastating, that from an objective perspective, it seemed the Jewish people had breathed their last.

The Talmud relates a profoundly strange incident that occurred moments before the Temple's destruction:

“When the pagans entered the Holy Temple, they saw the cherubs cleaving to each other. They took them out to the streets and said: ‘These Jews... is this what they occupy themselves with?’”

The innermost chamber of the Temple, the most sacred Jewish site, was known as the "Holy of Holies" and seen as the spiritual epicenter of the universe. Two golden cherubs–two winged figures, one male and one female–were located in the "Holy of Holies." These cherubs represented the relationship between the cosmic groom and bride, between G-d and His people.

The Talmud teaches that when the relationship between groom and bride was sour, the two faces turned away from each other, as when spouses are angry with each other. When the relationship was healthy, the two faces faced each other. When the love between G-d and His bride was at its peak, the cherubs would embrace “as a man cleaves to his wife.”

The Talmud is saying that when Israel's enemies invaded the Temple, they entered the Holy of Holies, a place so sacred that entry into it was permitted only to the High Priest, and only on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. There they saw the cherubs embracing each other. They dragged them out of the Temple and into the streets, vulgarizing their sacred significance.

This seems bizarre. When the enemies of Israel invaded the Temple to destroy it, the relationship between G-d and His people was at its lowest possible point; that was the reason for the destruction and subsequent exile. The Jews were about to become estranged from G-d for millennia. The manifest presence of divinity in the world, via the Temple in Jerusalem, would cease; Jews and G-d would now be exiled from each other.

If exile is a time of estrangement between G-d and Israel, why were the cherubs embracing each other at the time of the Temple’s destruction? Wouldn’t the destruction of the Holy Temple mark a nadir in our relationship with the Almighty? What greater paradox can there be: The divine Groom is destroying His marital home, allowing His nuptial chamber to be violated and His bride to be carried off by strangers, while the barometer of their marriage indicates the ultimate in intimacy and union!

Perhaps there is a deeper dimension to our long exile.

This is not an easy question to answer—nor do we even have a real and complete answer to these enigmas of Jewish history. Reb Hillel Paritcher, a Chassid and sage, explains that the Three Weeks reflect a cosmic silence that progresses from week to week. The Three Weeks begin on the 17th of Tammuz, the date Moses broke the two tablets when he saw the golden calf, 40 days after he received the tablets with the Ten Commandments.

On the surface, this was a tragic event. The 17th of Tammuz begins the saddest time of the year. Yet, following that day, Moses returned to Sinai to beseech G-d to forgive His people. His efforts took 80 days, but at the end of that period, Moses prevailed and returned on Yom Kippur with the second set of tablets.

In many ways, the second tablets are far greater than the first. They introduced an unprecedented new concept into existence. This new concept and energy is born in the Three Weeks (the first three weeks of Moses' prayers on Sinai). During these weeks, the people experienced only silence below. But above, a birthing was take place.

As the Three Weeks progress, the silence deepens. The people feel that perhaps they will not be forgiven. Later in history, the siege intensified over Jerusalem during the Three Weeks, until Tisha B’Av, the end of the Three Weeks, when the Temples were destroyed.

Yet, as the silence deepens, the concept develops further and reaches new heights. The saddest day, the 9th of Av, is followed by the Seven Weeks of Consolation. Each week, we are increasingly comforted as we progressively connect to the "glowing" 7 emotions of Hashem.

The Seven Weeks of Consolation motivate and prepare us for the work we must do to receive the new revelation birthed in the Three Weeks. In order to grow and be receptive to a new perspective, we must suspend our old perspectives and free ourselves from our old patterns of behavior. After these seven weeks are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and we are able to receive the revelation of the second tablets on Yom Kippur. After all this work, we are finally ready to celebrate our reception of the new concept—and celebrate we do, on Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah.

This is not an easy concept, but it is a vital one.

You thought you had a good marriage for 18 years, but now there are crocks everywhere. Your wife tells you how miserable she has been for two decades. She had to shut down all of her emotions because of your “issues.”

You thought you were happy-go-lucky, but suddenly a curve ball comes, and a Niagara Falls of emotions flood your psyche. You’re not sure if you are coming or going.

You thought you had a decent relationship with your children, and that they were doing well. Suddenly, you discover something about one of your children—and your rub your eyes in disbelief. How did this happen under my watch? How could this happen? You are dumbfounded, devastated, confused.

You can go into depression, withdrawal, or denial. You can fall into the abyss. Or, there is another way.

Maybe, just maybe, an infinite light is shining on you, and it is “blinding” you. Maybe, just maybe, you are being introduced to a depth of existence that you never knew—and in order to absorb it, all of your comfort zones and safety nets need to be shattered, so that you can be open to an entirely new identity.

What seems like the epitome of pain is really “labor pain.” It is the pain and confusion that comes with a new child entering your life. Your present tools cannot absorb it, so they shatter, and as you feel lost and rejected, you become open to a new light that will change you forever.

You ran from your emotions your entire life. You created substitutes. But now your marriage is on the rocks, and everything comes crashing down. You need to, for the first time in your life, confront your emotions, your raw, authentic, genuine, emotions—something you shut down at the age of 8. You feel strangled, forlorn, and uncertain. You can’t handle it. You want to run back into hiding. You have carved out a good hiding place for yourself.

A young chemist had been working for some time at developing a new bonding agent, a glue. After years of hardship, the work was complete. He tried it out. It did not stick. What is the use of glue that does not stick? Most people would have called this a failure, a waste of time, a disappointment. This chemist thought otherwise.

Instead of deciding his work was a failure, he asked, “What if it is a success? What if I have discovered a solution? The only thing left to do is find the problem.”

He refused to give up and kept asking himself, “What is the use of an underachieving adhesive?” Eventually, he found it. It became a huge commercial success. They're little and they stick—but not too hard. That is how “Post-Its” were invented!

When something bad happens, we can see it as a failure, or, like the chemist, we can make it a success. Whatever our fate, we always have a choice between seeing it as a crushing tragedy devoid of meaning, or as a tragedy which contains the seeds of something very positive.

The same is true for every breakdown in life. When one door closes, another one opens. We only need the courage to notice the new opening and enter it.

May Hashem turn the sad days into happy days.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky



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