During the past few days we mentioned the customs and traditions of mourning which we keep year-round to remember the Bet-haMiqdash, especially during celebrations.
Before we proceed further, I will summarize these traditions, following Maimonides MT Ta’aniyot , chapter 5, 12-15.
1. Decorating the house, leaving an unfinished wall. See here
2. Leaving one food outside, and/or an empty space in the table. See here.
3. Women should not wear all their jewelry at once. See this (Hebrew) . Ashes should be place on the head of the bridegroom.
4. Playing or listening to instrumental music. See this.
5. Wearing gold crowns over the heads of the groom and the bride.
6. “If one sees Jerusalem in its state of destruction…he should rend his clothing for the Temple” .
Regarding this last point, and paraphrasing Me’am Loez: When we visit and see one of the ruins of Biblical Jerusalem, we should say a special Psalm (Tehilim 79), which talks about destruction and desolation, and then recite a blessing that is usually said when a close relative passes away: Barukh Dayan haEmet. We should also tear our shirt apart, again, as a mourner would do when mourning for a close relative. If one sees the Kotel again, within thirty days, he does not need to rend his garments again. However, if more than thirty days have elapsed , he should tear his clothing a second time.
Contemporary rabbis discussed the application in our days of this last tradition, tearing one’s clothes apart as a sign of mourning, when we visit the Western Wall.
I’m presenting very briefly two major opinions.
Rabbi Kook z”l and other rabbis said that once we have the State of Israel and we govern ourselves, this tradition should not be mandatory anymore. Why? Because the ruins of Jerusalem are not considered a reason for mourning, since it is now up to us to rebuild them. Furthermore, he said, tearing our clothes apart (keriy’a) might be considered an expression of ungratefulness to God, that gave us back our Medinat Israel.
Rabbis who hold this opinion, would still indicate to tear our garments upon seeing the place of the Bet-haMiqdash, where a gentile shrine stands, behind the Kotel.
Rabbi Obadia Yosef z”l and other rabbis have a different opinion. We should be immensely thankful to HaShem for having Yerushalayim back in our hands, but the holiness of Yerushalayim will be completed only when the bet haMiqdash will be rebuilt and be active again. Accordingly, when we visit Jerusalem and see the Kotel we still should tear our garments apart in sign of mourning for the Bet-haMiqdash. And we should do this until the day (B’H soon!) the Bet-haMiqdash will be physically rebuilt.
There is a way, also suggested by Rabbi Obadia Yosef, to avoid this debatable situation: visiting the Western Wall, the first time, during Shabbat or Rosh Hodesh. The holiness of Shabbat and Rosh Hodesh overrides any displaying of mourning. So, even for the stricter opinion, we don’t have to tear our garments when we see the ruins of the Bet haMiqdash on Shabbat or Rosh Hodesh, and during the following thirty days.