Normally, it’s difficult to get into the right frame of mind for Tish’ah B’Av. It’s the summertime; children are at camp, and teachers are off from school. Many people are up in the country. It is a time to relax after having a busy year. Even though you’re limited to what you can do during the Three Weeks, there’s always the anticipation of Shabbos Nachamu and the remainder of the summer vacation.
Not this year. There is little joy this summer. Sleepaway camps are closed in New York. Many places are closed, and if you go to most states, you will have to quarantine when you return. New York has been through a lot and lost many people. And, as seen in California, there can be a resurgence of the virus.
It has always been perplexing why the Second Temple was destroyed by senseless hatred while the First Temple was destroyed for sins that are worse, such as idol worship, murder, and adultery. The Second Temple was rebuilt 70 years after the destruction of the First Temple, and we are still waiting for the Third Temple to be built, 1,950 years after the Second Temple was destroyed.
America 2020 shows the effect of senseless hatred and how it destroys society. There is plenty of blame to go around. I would give one example, which may not be the biggest example of senseless hatred but is telling of where we are as a country today. Representative Ted Yoho, a Republican from Florida, “accosted” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the hallway and said some improper things to her, some of which were overheard by a reporter. In normal times, Yoho and Ocasio-Cortez would have had a private meeting and then they would come out together and say that whatever happened, happened. Instead, Rep. Yoho made a statement on the floor of the House in which he regretted his conduct. This was unusual. It may not have been the perfect apology, but Yoho’s public display of contrition should have been enough. However, Ocasio-Cortez did not accept his apology, and on the floor of the House of Representatives went after Yoho with a vengeance, accusing him of being sexist and hiding behind his family. Many people considered Ocasio-Cortez’s statement as courageous, and she was made into a hero, while Yoho was kicked off the board of a Christian fund to help the hungry.
The destruction of the First and Second Temples and the fall of Jerusalem did not come without any warning. Yet the people did not want to change their behavior. They attacked the messengers, claiming that they were alarmists and full of gloom and doom. Instead, they relied on those who said everything is all right and there is nothing to fear. Today, we have seen such behavior in how many in the country have responded to COVID-19. They attack individuals, such as Dr. Fauci, who are telling people that they must change their behavior to deal with the virus. They would rather listen to those such as the president, who for months kept on minimizing its threat and saying that it would disappear by Easter. When it did not disappear by Easter, they then said it would disappear by the summer.
At the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, there were Jews who wanted to revolt against the Roman Empire. They were known in English as the Zealots. The Rabbis told them that they should not do it, and if they did, then they were doomed to failure. They were giving the Romans the excuse they needed to go in and take total control of Jerusalem. Today’s version of the Zealots are the anarchists and other far-left protestors who are engaging in conduct that they know will give the president the excuse to bring federal forces into the cities, which will not end well for the protestors, the cities, and our country.
On the Tish’ah B’Av that fell on August 2, 1492, the last remaining Jews were expelled from Spain. The next day, Christopher Columbus left Spain for his trip that led him to “discover” America. Today, Columbus’ legacy is being attacked by many on the left. Statues have been forcibly removed and thrown into the river in Richmond, and otherwise removed in other cities such as Chicago.
It was not mere coincidence that Columbus left the day after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. This is an example of Jewish survival in the Diaspora. One country closed for the Jewish people (Spain) and a whole new group of countries opened (North, Central, and South America). For the Jewish community, Columbus’ voyage was significant and thus his legacy should be remembered.
Also, it should be a reminder that no matter how dark things appear today, as it did for the Jewish community in Spain on Tish’ah B’Av in 1492, there is always hope that things will get better. No one in Spain in 1492 would have had any idea that America would become an important place for world Jewry’s survival.