Fire purifies. Fire destroys. Fire is iconic of the ‘Three Weeks,’ a time of devastation, and, B’ezrat Hashem, also of renewal.
More profound than our giving up shoes on Tish B’Av, more significant than our foregoing meat during the Nine Days, more important than our refraining from music during the period of time lasting from the Fast of Tammuz through the Fast of the 9th of Av, in fact, more weighty than any other basic aspect of this time of grief, of profound loss, is our need to be more open minded toward each other.
Consider that following that other time of narrowness, our slavery in Egypt, we were emancipated, and, somehow, we merited both to receive the Torah and to enter Eretz Yisrael, thereafter. This time, in contrast, we think that the best we can do is to pray for the fulfillment of our lives as that fulfillment would be manifest in the establishment of the Third Temple and in the arrival of Moshiach. Nonetheless, we forget that last time our restrictions were not self-imposed and our passage through the straits resembled the helpful squeezing that occurs during childbirth. This time, quite the opposite is true. By dint of our self-serving values, we caused the walls to close in on us. This time, on the contrary, we will be fortunate if our journey through our self-wrought tightness does not destroy us.
Our legacy of baseless hatred, of judging without cause, of casting ourselves apart from others among us, brought about the contemporary pressures from which we now suffer.
In associating ourselves with strata, with separateness, with the types of dissonance that gets called up by categorizing ourselves as “them” and “us,” we destroyed not only Hashem’s physical house in the Old City, i.e. the Temple, but we laid waste, also, to the holy places within ourselves. When we elevated the act of making comparisons and contrasts to a place of merit, we, in turn, downgrade our souls to a place of shadows.
Now, that is, during this time/space, which we occupy, only the breaking open of our hearts, only the revealing of our most vulnerable depths, only our subsequent experiencing of grief can restore us to light, to thresholds higher than those of the status quo, can pull us up to our potential. Such an aliyah is not a matter of our merely integrating our learning into words, but is a matter of our weaving our words into deeds and our deeds into habits.
It’s no longer sufficient for us to claim championship because we have managed to guard our thoughts from unrestrained fantasy or have otherwise rid our minds of whimsy. Contemplation count, it just doesn’t count enough to bring us to the next level. Rather, simultaneous with any private designs, we might collectively construct, out of our ideations, acts of loving kindness. As an entire people, we must grow choices that are comprehensive, we must elect intentionality that brings accord, we must make efforts to behave in ways that celebrate all of us, that leaves none among our tribes, behind.
Such goals can feel unrealistic; it is one thing to claim to love the Klal, another to hold ourselves back from casting dispersions on other Jews and on other interpretations of Jewish activities, especially when we don’t understand or like existent alternatives. And yet, it is required of us to appreciate, as we claim we do during the three festivals, Sukkot, Pesach, and Shavuot, as we symbolize by gathering together four very different species, by referring to four very different sons, and by pointing to the whole of the generation of the miracles on Har Sinai, that, specifically, without some portion of our people we are lacking.
To bring Moshiach and the Third Temple, exactly, and to cover ourselves with unprecedented peace, more generally, we must urge and help all other Jews to join with us. We must make and sanctify social inclusivity. We must get beyond present interpersonal restrictions, and, in doing so, built a comfortable channel for The Boss’s Goodness. Only our improvement of our relations with other Jews will bring our rescue. Else wise, we will continue to fail to overcome our current, overwhelming existential tightness. There can be no wishing away of it.
This daunting goal, what’s more, is a necessary vision. Without it, we risk remaining aliened from Hashem and from all of His higher spheres. We chance that the cosmic reflection of our earlier alienation of our brethren will continue to be both the cause and the ongoing means of our ban from all things beneficent, from all things that truly matter.
Despite our life circumstance, it is the nature of the universe for us to be pressed upon. It is our merit, though, to determine whether or not those forces, most of all the unpleasant ones, will merely seem, or actually be, exerted upon us, and whether or not those weights result in good, or, has v’shalom, its opposite, in our lives. It is our decision whether or not we escape the void, the spiritual exile, whether or not we continue to have difficulties because we have failed to heal the psychic hurts we laid upon ourselves.
It is in our power to reduce the amount of pain we endure before our final healing. We can propagate actions that bring about unity, understanding, and, ultimately, transcendence. We can burn in intense devotion to each other, in the mitzvot bein adam l’chaveiro. We can herald an era of harmony and of good fortune if we apply ourselves to do so.