One of the fundamental teachings of Judaism is the idea that there is meaning in all historical events. This meaning refers to a divine design, a master plan that encompasses all of history.
It is during the days commemorating the destruction of the Holy Temple and of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. that our consciousness of history and its meaning should be raised. The Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed and millions of Jews were murdered, taken into slavery, starved to death, and exiled across the Roman Empire. The rabbis concluded we were punished because of our sins. Several sins were suggested, but the overwhelming opinion was the sin of disunity, unjustified hatred, and a lack of feeling responsible one for the other. We all too often fail to see that every person is created in the image of God. Pride, envy, and anger are the real sins. These are not petty moral sins but basic tenets of the Jewish religion, and a failure in our relationships is a failure as Jews.
American Jews live in an age of relative prosperity, health, and happiness. It is not easy to reflect on what appears to be ancient history. Yet at every moment, with every person we meet, perhaps we can be a little more sensitive and accepting; possibly give assistance to a person in need; and maybe even love each person a little more.
Traditionally, each year Jews remember the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem on the ninth day of the month of Av, this year falling on July 29. It is a day of reflection on our national and historical tragedies, including the Holocaust and Crusades. It is a time to think how we can improve ourselves, our communities and the world, and even how we can guard our speech from hurting others
Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik teaches that Judaism developed a very peculiar philosophy of memory, an ethics of memory. Memory is not just the capacity to know events that lie in the past. It is experiential in nature; we do not simply recollect the past, but re-experience that which has been. Just like during Passover we must see ourselves as if we left Egyptian slavery, so too we should attempt to re-experience the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, our dispersions and all the pogroms and holocausts.
Every expression of traditional Judaism envisages a happy ending, from the sociological message of the prophets to the mystical message of the kabbalists. The rabbis assert that the anniversary of the day of the destruction of the Temple would be the birth date of the Messiah. Perhaps we can help rebuild Jerusalem and bring the messianic era of world peace.