Monday, July 23, 2007

9 Av is not 9/11 - churban and chilul kedusha

I’m not in the mood to continue on the topic of ikkarei emunah and psak today, Erev 9 b’Av. Bl”n I’ll get back to it on Wed., but if you have a craving for the topic until then, take a look at David Guttmann’s posts.

To view 9 Av as a Jewish 9/11 I think misses the point. The gemara quotes and rejects R’ Yochanan’s view that the fast should be on 10 Av, the date when the majority of the destruction and burning of the Mikdash took place. Instead, we mark the churban on 9 Av when the fire was first set to the Mikdash. Why? The Brisker Rav explains the choice of date based on the concept of “ba’u bah pritzim v’chililuha”, once the enemy entered the Mikdash, its kedusha was removed (See Avodah Zarah 52b and the rishonim there). The fire of 10 Av may have been more intense and catastrophic than the fire which started on 9 Av, but that fire was a fire which “only” destroyed a building of wood and stone. 9 Av is not marked because of the physical destruction which took place, but because that is the day on which the greatest chilul kedusha occurred.

I don’t mean to minimize the events of 9/11 (I work a few blocks away) – loss of life is always tragic, especially so when it comes at the hands of an enemy intent on senseless violence. But I think the Brisker Rav reminds us that tragedy, loss, destruction has to be seen within the framework of chilul Hashem, chilul kedusha, and not just a sense of personal loss and suffering. In that respect, one cannot possibly compare the destruction of 9/11 to the destruction of the Mikdash.

R’ Dessler (Michtav m’Eliyahu) asks: if the Jewish people failed to fulfill their mission in Eretz Yisrael, in a makom kadosh, what sense does galus make as a punishment – kal v’chomer we are bound to fail when further removed from the protection of that makom kadosh? The answer underscores the point of the Brisker Rav. When we were in Eretz Yisrael our failings not only were our own undoing, but they also polluted and caused a chilul Hashem and chilul of the kedushas ha’aretz. In galus, there is the danger of further failure, but that failure is tempered by it not polluting the kedushas hamakom of Eretz Yisrael.

R’ Soloveitchik in a eulogy of the Brisker Rav noted that one could not call the Brisker Rav a Zionist, but that is not because he did not love Eretz Yisrael, but simply because the question of a State is political and not halachic. The Brisker Rav and R’ Chaim’s chiddushim are filled with torah that analyzes every aspect of kedushas ha’aretz, kedushas mikdash, kedushas yerushalayim; these giants were sensitive to every nuance of kedusha that manifests itself in Eretz Yisrael, and their great love for Eretz Yisrael sprang from that appreciation.

Simply rebuilding the makom mikdash or its kelim are not the way out of 9 Av. The physical mikdash is a reflection of the mikdash in our hearts (see Nefesh haChaim section 1). A physical building which we are not ready for will just be a building, not a Mikdash; kelim which we are not ready to use will just be utensils, not vehicles for avodah. The tikkun for 9 Av is not recreating a physical building – it is recreating the sense of hashra’as haShechina which once was, in removing the chilul Hashem and chilul kedusha.

While the process of tikkun may seem impossible, recall that while it took 2000 years for Klal Yisrael to deserve Eretz Yisrael again, it took just 20 (1948 to 1967) for us to once again deserve Yerushalayim once we had a State - the military victory is just a siman in chitzoniyus to what we reclaimed in pnimiyus. The kinyan of Eretz Yisrael itself, if appreciated properly, can strengthen our avodah and speed up the process, but the battle is far from over. Just walking down the streets of NY (just living in NY instead of Yerushalayim!) should give anyone with eyes in their head a sense of the chilul kedusha that we live with daily. That’s what we shed tears over tomorrow, and beg for a nechama from, b’meheira b’yameinu.


  1. 1) The Maharal actually writes that the ikkar churban was the night going into 10 Av. When the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed curban was brought into the world and it lost it's kedusha. This is what "erev" represents. The only reason we fast on 9 Av is cause it was the beginning of the churban.

    2) The Sifsei Chaim has a very nice piece where he writes that the ultimate "tzipisa l'yehoshua" has to be done to restore kovod shamayim and not for any personal reasons.

  2. Anonymous1:39 PM

    Chaim: Those type of comments are what spark the anti-Zohar crowd. You know so much about the Maharal but not basic Nach and Talmud.

  3. anonymous: I don't understand what you are driving at. Care to explain?

  4. I assume that the anonymous commenter is making fun of the yehoshua/yeshua typo. It's a t'miha to use that as a basis for bizui t"ch, especially today.

  5. i enjoyed your piece. just about a half hour after i heard somone at eicha say, "9 Av is the Jewish 9/11".

    however, your remarks about galus are way off mark. am yisrael is meant to be in eretz yisrael and simultaneously meant to avoid chillul Hashem and chillul ha'Aretz. however, the 2 are not mutually exclusive. when you say
    "In galus, there is the danger of further failure, but that failure is tempered by it not polluting the kedushas hamakom of Eretz Yisrael.", you are simply justifying your choice to remain in galus and not come to eretz yisrael to help eliminate the chillulim that unfortunately occur.

  6. Isaac Balbin6:17 AM

    Let's all daven at home. No more worrying about Chillul Beis Haknesses.

  7. Anonymous8:05 AM

    Chaim: See Kings 2 25:8-11, Jeremiah 52:12-15, Taanit 29A.

    You write as if the Maharal revealed this information.

  8. Dear Anonymous,

    I appreciate your mareh mekomos, but fail to see what they have to do with what I wrote. 1) I do not mention the Maharal in this post at all; 2) I assume your intent in citing these mareh mekomos is to show me that the gemara already questions why we fast on 9 Av and not 10 and anwers because it is "aschalta d'puranuta". I do not know what yeshiva you learned in, but for most people this opens the door to further investigation rather than closes it. R' Yochanan held the fast should occur on the 10th because that is when the bulk of the destruction took place - a sevara that prima facia makes a lot of sense. When the Chachamim respond that the 9th was "aschalta d'puranusa" one is left (or should be left) wondering what this means - R' Yochachan also agrees with the historical fact that the destruction began on the 9th, but holds that a fast should coincide not with the beginning of the fire, but with the destruction. WHY do the Chachamim say the beginning, and not the actual destruction of the burning, is the point which is mechayeiv our fast? Why is the aschalta d'puranusa and not the further destruction, like R' Yochanan held, the focus of our attention??? Your citations of pesukim or gemaras alone fail to address that question...
    Perhaps I should have spelled all this out, but since you are the only person to make such a comment and I have limited time to write, I am not sure how seriously to take your point of view, but I have responded for what it's worth.

  9. >>>you are simply justifying your choice to remain in galus and not come to eretz yisrael to help eliminate the chillulim that unfortunately occur.

    Chas v'shalom. I am explaining why the punishment of galus was appropriate for its time and place. B'H we live in ikvisa d'meshicha... R' Dessler himself lived in Eretz Yisrael! We have to understand why Hashem took away our opportunity to use kedushas ha'aretz as a means to greater avodah, but once we have eretz yisrael back, we have to seize the opportunity to make the best of what we have.

    >>>all daven at home. No more worrying about Chillul Beis Haknesses.

    The GR"A offered similar to advice to his daughters because the women's section was not conducive to tefilah. But the lesson to be drawn is to avoid being mechalel our mekomos mekudashim, not to shun them!

  10. Chaim B: I believe anonymous was addressing my comment and not your post. In any event I did not mean to give the impression that the Maharal was being m'chadeish something mentioned in the gemara. The Maharal obviously knew the gemara since he quotes it. My whole point was to mention the Maharal's explanation of the gemara. If what I wrote makes no sense then it is obviously my fault for not explaining the Maharal correctly.

  11. Anonymous1:10 PM

    My comment was to Markowitz. My problem was that the words he chose sounded like the Maharal was m'chasdeish this.

    I said to this that it is what sparks the antizohar crowd.