ZEKHER LAMIQDASH: The delicate balance between mourning and celebrations


Following the destruction of the Second Temple, a major change took place in Am Israel. It seemed that after the destruction and exile, it was no longer possible to live in a normal manner. The people could not conceive pursuing a life with joy and celebrations without the Bet haMiqdash.

The Talmud (Baba Batra 60b) tells the following story:

“When the Temple was destroyed for the second time (68 CE), many Jews began living as ascetics, depriving themselves from eating meat or drinking wine. Rabbi Yehoshua said, ‘My children, why youdo not eat meat or drink wine? They replied: ‘How are we going to eat meat, that it used to be brought as an offering on the altar (mizbeah), now that the altar is ruined. How are we going to drink wine, which used to be poured as a libation on the altar, now that the altar is destroyed? He said to them, ‘If so, do not eat bread anymore, because the offering of bread (lehem hapanim) was also disrupted.’ They said: ‘[You’re right, from now on we will not eat more bread,] we will consume only fruits’. ‘Nor can you eat from the fruits of Israel, [Rabbi Yehoshua told them], because they are no longer being offered as the first-fruits (Bikurim)’ . ‘So, we will eat other fruits of the earth (such as vegetables and legumes, etc.) they said.’. ‘But, [he said to them] you will not be able to drink water, because the water was poured on the altar as well (nisukh hamayim) and that has also been disrupted.’ At this point, they no longer found a possible answer, so Rabbi Yehoshua said, ‘My children, listen. Not to mourn for our Bet haMiqdash, is impossible, but mourning excessively, is also impossible, because we can not impose restrictions that most people are not able to follow. “

Rabbi Yehoshua went on and explained that we must continue living a normal life. We can not allow our great mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple produce a permanent and eternal state of national mourning, and forbid eating meat or drinking wine, which are the symbols of celebration. We need to find the delicate balance between national mourning and personal joy. There are some symbolic, discrete things, we can do to remember the destruction of the Bet haMiqdash in times of celebration, so while our Temple is in ruins, our happiness will never be complete.

Therefore, the Sages taught, for example, that on the wedding day, the groom should have the Bet haMiqdash in his mind, above his personal joy, putting some ashes on his head in discreet sign of mourning. Similarly, when a celebratory meal is prepared, we leave aside one meal in remembrance of the destruction of the Temple.

In the following days BH we will explain these and other customs that we Jews have adopted in memory of our Bet haMiqdash.