Physics states that nothing is ever destroyed. It simply changes form. Tear up a letter and you have many small bits of paper in the waste bin instead of one single sheet – but the sum total remains. Its message may now be a hotchpotch of disjointed partial consonants and vowels, but it is all there. Even its emotional impact remains, added to by the rash act of shredding it . Nothing is ever completely destroyed. So why commemorate the ‘destruction’ of the Jewish Temples this coming Sunday by fasting?
A house fire ‘destroys’ a home. The timbers disintegrate and become charred remains and gases. Nothing is factually destroyed. So did the Greeks and then the Romans truly ‘destroy’ the two Temples – the first in in 586 BCE and then again in 70 CE?
The physical net loss was the cost of replacement. Easily done. A few oligarchs chipping in and presto – third Temple. So, clearly what was lost was not mere bricks and mortar. And meaning too cannot be destroyed. It morphs into plans, action, creativity, hope. Witness the trauma suffered by those whose homes have burnt down in raging bush fires. What single item of loss is most missed? Their photo albums. The memories that transcend time and space, the profound emotions and associations that fill a person’s being and provide the innate value of life – these are the stuff of ‘destruction’. But then, these profound feelings of emptiness and grief morph into the will to create a new home and begin again a photo collection again. The law of conservation of spiritual energy.
The Temples were the ‘home’ of the Jewish people. We were privileged to relate directly to a power far beyond imagination – our Maker. Hundreds of thousands of people witnessed annually ‘impossible’ phenomena that would have stunned a Hawkins and an Einstein. The Temple was our home, our retreat, our portal to another dimension, our red-phone connection to the Above. We watched it burn, crumble, dismember in front of our eyes. But was it truly destroyed?
If you were to suffer, G-d forbid, intense loss, say of a parent, sibling or closest friend, would you want to eat, enjoy the football, lavish yourself? This Sunday we commemorate Tish’a B’Av the destruction of the Temples – our ‘homes’ were burnt down and all our lifelong photos destroyed. We don’t eat. We don’t pleasure ourselves. We grieve.
But nothing is ever truly destroyed. The Temples now reside in our hearts – our yearning, our longing, our good intentions, our plans. Seeming destruction transforms from stone to soul. And the soul will restore the stone – if you will it. That’s the meaning of Tish’a B’Av: grieving giving rise to commitment to a meaningful future. Loss will transform into a far greater profit.