(Courtesy: Rab Mark Ankcorn)
In making sense of Tisha B’Av and Shabbat Hazon, let’s turn to the teachings of the Kedushas Levi, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, z”l, 1740-1810. A student of the Maggid of Mezrich, he was a pivotal figure in early Hassidic thought. He was renown for never saying a bad word about a fellow Jew or the Jewish people. Call “the defense attorney for Am Israel,” stories are legion about his constant intercession with God on behalf of communities and individuals.There is an interesting parable about this subject, Tisha B’Av and Shabbat Hazon: A father had a precious garment sewn for his son, who promptly tore it to shreds. The father then had a second garment sewn, which the child once again tore up.
The father had yet a third garment sewn; this time, however, he didn’t permit his son to wear it. Rather, he only allowed his son to gaze at it at appointed times, telling him that when he began to conduct himself properly, he would allow him to wear it. In this way, the father trained his son to act in a manner that ultimately became his second nature. Once he did, the father gave him the garment and allowed him to wear it.
The garment, obviously, is the Temple and the Kedushas Levi is arguing (consistent with the traditional reading of the Prophets and some of rabbinic thought) that we are at fault for the destruction. Because of our spiritual immaturity, our incomprehension, our errors of judgment, we caused both Temples to be destroyed and our People to be sent into exile.
I’m not sure I buy it as a matter of theology or history, especially as it takes away any responsibility on the part of those doing the burning, raping, pillaging, murdering. The Assyrians and Romans were bloodthirsty, violent regimes responsible for sickening atrocities. I simply cannot place the blame on the victims.
But as a psychological perspective, the Kedushas Levi is saying we weren’t really ready, spiritually, for the great gift that was the Temple. We didn’t know what it truly meant to have immediate, direct access to God, to bask in His presence and feel intimate and loved. To see God, and most of all be seen by Him.
However, the Kadosh Baruch Hu is like a patient father who repeats the lesson over and over. God always finds a way to teach that breaks through our barriers of mind and heart.
Each and every shabbat is shabbat Hazon. Each and every shabbat, we receive a second soul that stays with us for twenty-five blissful hours. Each and every shabbat we taste and touch true rest, wholeness, peace. We experience, however briefly, the world to come.
Let us use this shabbat to truly see our vision of the Best World. Not a “better world” because any idiot can imagine some improvement to whatever situation he’s in. What is radical, transformative, is a vision of perfection and that is the precious gift we are given each week.
See the Best that we can be, the ideal, the glorious, the perfect … and have the courage to work to make it happen.