Although we read Eichah on the night of Tishah B’Av, the destruction of the First Temple tends to be overshadowed by a discussion of the destruction of the Second Temple. It is only natural to address what is closer in time and what directly affects us. However, I would argue that in many respects the destruction of the First Beis Hamikdash (Temple) was a greater loss.
The Talmud in Yoma 21 (b) and 52 (b) lists differences between the two Temples. Toward the end of the First Temple, King Yoshiyahu concealed the Ark, the cover for the Ark, the Cherubim, the jar of manna from the time the Jews were in the desert, and the flask of anointing oil that had been used to anoint the kings and the kohen gadol (High Priest). Also concealed were Aaron’s staff with its almonds and blossoms, which was used at the time of Korach’s rebellion and the box that was given to them by the Philistines when they returned the Ark. None of these items were found and used or placed in the Second Temple.
During the First Temple there were prophets such as Jeremiah who wrote Eichah. There was no prophecy during the time of the Second Temple. The Divine Presence (Sh’chinah)was only found in the First Temple.
During the First Temple there was an Urim V’Tumim, a parchment that had G-d’s name written on it. It was inserted between the folds of the kohen gadol’s breastplate. When a question of national importance came up, the kohen gadol would concentrate on the name, which would result in stones on the breastplate lighting up in a message that the kohen gadol would understand. There is a dispute whether during the Second Temple there was an Urim V’Tumin or if it did exist but did not function.
There was a fire from Heaven in both Temples, but only in the First Temple did it assist in consuming what was placed on the altar.
The First Temple was built by King Solomon in the country under the dominion of the Jewish people without foreign control. The Second Temple was built while the Land of Israel was under the control of Persia and done with the permission of its king.
When the First Temple was built, the majority of Jews lived in Israel. When the Second Temple was built, the majority of Jews lived in Babylonia and most stayed there.
For we who have been without any Temple for more than 1,900 years, we mourn the destruction of the Second Temple. However, imagine if the First Temple had not been destroyed. Maybe the people would have acted differently during the Second Temple period and there would have been no need for the destruction of any Temple.
We would have avoided this galus (exile) during which we have suffered through many pogroms and other horrors perpetrated against our community. Sometimes we do not think about how many times the Jewish community has suffered. The Kinos we read on Tishah B’Av remind us about horrible incidents that occurred long ago that we may have forgotten.
We are living in a time with hidden miracles. Imagine if there was a Temple with miracles that are as clear to everyone as they were during the time of the First Beis Hamikdash. It seems so alien to us that we cannot comprehend what it must have been like during the First Beis Hamikdash. That is also the legacy of its destruction. Not only is it gone, but we cannot comprehend how it once was.
Tishah B’Av is over. It is human nature to not want to dwell on unpleasant events in the past. However, although there is only one day of Tishah B’Av, the loss to our community should be remembered every day. This is the only way we can change and overcome the mistakes that caused the destruction and put us in the position we are in today. If we forget about why we have a Tishah B’Av until next Tishah B’Av, nothing will change.