The Gates of Tears

We learn in the Talmud that since the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple), the gates of t’filla (prayer) have been locked (Bava Metzia 59a). There are no more paths leading to heaven through t’filla. The destruction has caused a certain separation between us and Hashem.

However, this separation is only in regards to the gates of t’filla. The Sages continue to tell us that the gates of tears have never been locked. If we merit to shed tears before Hashem, our prayers will penetrate all the way to Hashem. We are, obviously, not to force our tears. If they flow fine, if not, not.

Based on Rebbe Nachman’s Soul

Yearning for the Temple

As song as we continue to lack our rebuilt Beit HaMikdash (the Temple), we must feel genuine sorrow over its destruction. Tikkun Chatzot, the midnight lamentations, is our prescribed daily prayer for expressing our yearning for our Holy Temple.

During the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av), the days in which the destruction took place, we increase our mourning. On Tisha B’Av, the grief is at its peak, as we fast, sit on the ground, cry, and recite lamentations.

Our Sages tell us that from the time of the destruction of the Temple it is forbidden to laugh with a full heart. However, we must not allow ourselves to fall into sadness, either.

When we cry, we must be careful to cry only for the right reasons. Our tears should be tears of yearning and not of grievance and complaint, G-d forbid. We must be very careful to not fall into needless crying, which causes all destruction.

Crying and mourning during the Three Weeks is not the end in itself. It is to remind us to strive to rectify the reasons for the destruction of our Beit HaMikdash, to know what we lost due to our sins, and to long for Hashem. The main point is to repent and remedy the root cause of the destruction, needless crying and complaining to Hashem.

Here, t’shuva (repentance) is to stop our needless crying and complaining, and to constantly feel gratitude to Hashem for all that He does for us. During the Three Weeks and during our daily Tikkun Chatzot prayers, we cry and yearn for the lack our rebuilt Beit HaMikdash. The rest of the time, we need to be happy and thank Hashem for all the good He constantly does for us.

Based on The Garden of Gratitude, By Rabbi Shalom Arush

Light Coming from Darkness

This week’s Torah portion occurs as we begin the month of Av. Rav Tzadok, the Pri Tzadik, points out a remarkable paradox (Pri-Tzadik, Rosh Chodesh Av 1). As we enter the month of Av, a sense of gloom sets in as we recall the national tragedies that have befallen our people during this month. Both our First and Second Temples were destroyed and our people were exiled from out Land.

Despite this, the halakha requires us to sing the Hallel in celebration of the new month. Also, the Sefer Yetzira explains that each Hebrew month is associated with a particular Hebrew letter. The month of Av is associated with the letter tet, which is the letter from which the light of life emanates (Zohar Chadash 152a).

The question is, “How can the letter associated with life, light, and goodness be associated with a month filled with so much tragedy and misfortune?” Rav Tzadok reveals that the highest level of light and goodness always emanates from the darkness. When Hashem created the world, “It was chaotic and formless, darkness loomed over everything… Then Hashem said let there be light and there was light. Then Hashem saw that the light was good…” (Genesis 1:2-4).

Rav Tzadok explains that whenever a letter or word appears for the first time in the Torah, the context in which it appears reveals its essential meaning. In this case, both the words tov (good) and ohr (light) first appear in the Torah in the context of the chaos and darkness in the beginning of creation.

Our Sages tell us that the creation of light in the above verses referred to not just a physical light, but also to the spiritual light of Divine goodness. Rav Tzadok tells us that this supernal light always emerges from darkness and turmoil, just as it did in the beginning of creation.

On the one hand, the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple), referred to by our Sages as the “light of the world,” was destroyed. Since then, ever-increasing layers of darkness that accompanied the month of Av have cast a rather gloomy shadow over us.

However, our Sages saw the benevolent light of creation veiled within the darkness. As Rabbeinu Yona writes,

One who places his trust in Hashem should always be filled with hope and anticipation that even in the midst of his most intense anguish and tribulation, the darkness will itself bring the light… ‘To my enemies [I say] do not rejoice because I have fallen for even as I sit now in darkness Hashem is my light’ (Mikha 7:8), upon which our Sages comment: Had I not fallen, I would never have risen, had I not sat in the dark I would never have had light (Sha’arei T’shuva 2:5).

In the midst of our national or personal troubles, this can be a very powerful and encouraging thought.

Based on Rav Tzadok HaKohen On the Parsha: Based on Sefer Pri-Tzadik, by Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz, Masei

The Wailing Wall

“On Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, and it shall be holy. The house of Yaakov shall dispossess those who dispossessed them.” (Obadiah 1:17)

Unlike the rest of the Temple, the Kotel Ma’aravi (the Western Wall) of the Temple Mount was built by King David, who prepared everything needed for the construction of the Temple (Sukah 53a). The Western Wall survived the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, and the Sh’khina (Divine Presence) has never left it (Shir HaShirim Rabba 2:9).

After the First Temple was destroyed, Ezra says, “Grace has been shown from Hashem our G-d to leave us a remnant and give us a peg in His holy place, so that our G-d may add luster to our eyes and give us a bit of sustenance in our bondage” (Ezra 9:8). The Western Wall was the “peg” to show us His intention to return.

And, indeed, it was rebuilt. Then, after the Second Temple was destroyed, the Western Wall was again left, as a sign for us that the Third Temple will be built. As our verse says, “On Mount Zion” — the Temple site — “there shall be a remnant” — the Western Wall — “and it shall be holy,” for the Divine Presence has ever left it, “and the house of Yaakov shall dispossess those who dispossessed them” with the building of the Third Temple.

Based on Birkat Hayyim, Haftarat Vayishlah, as cited in If I Forget Thee: The Ben Ish Hai on The land of Israel, Jerusalem and the Holy Temple