There is a famous legend of Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of the French Empire, who entered a Synagogue on the day of Tisha B’av and saw Jews- men and women- weeping. Tisha B’av is a day of …
There is a famous legend of Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of the French Empire, who entered a Synagogue on the day of Tisha B’av and saw Jews- men and women- weeping. Tisha B’av is a day of intense mourning in Judaism.
The mourning is on the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem and the subsequent exile, suffering, and decline in spirituality. Napoleon inquired as to what the mourning is about so the people explained it to him. Napoleon was fascinated and made the following interesting observation. “If you still cry over something from so many centuries ago, that means it’s live in you and eventually you’ll have the Temple rebuilt.”
Sunday, July 18, is Tisha B’av of this year. Jews around the world will fast and mourn the destruction of the two Temples. The destruction of the temple is not just about a physical building. It is about the state of the world. When the world is corrupted and far from its Creator, the world cannot contain the Temple.
In Judaism there is a very important principle that teaches that “it’s not all or nothing”. We have a lot of good in the world today, spiritually and physically. The good that we have is part of the redemption process and part of the Messianic Age. The world is moving closer and closer to perfection.
There are also setbacks and in some respects the world is declining, but in other aspects the world is getting better. We cannot look at the world as an all or nothing scenario.
Today every value system, both religious and secular, have a “world perfect” vision, a view of how the world should look. The origin of the idea of a “world perfect” stage is in Judaism.
The concept of “it’s not all or nothing” is an important one also in our personal lives. As much as we are striving for perfection and we want to have everything perfect with us and with our friends, we need to look at the world on an individual basis. Every person is individual and so is every day and every act.
The Saturday after Tisha B’av is a day of consolation. This year it is on July 24. We accept that everything is for the good even if we don’t see it now and we don’t give up hope for the final redemption and world perfection.
Keeping the fire of hope alive is very important and that itself begets good deeds. In our personal lives, no one can say they are always doing good but at least we hope to one day be entirely good people. If we give up hope for that we’ll certainly not reach it. If we keep on hoping to reach perfection, we will try to be as best as we can, and we will try to grow constantly.
As my favorite Rabbi Sacks beautifully says, “Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. Hope is the belief that we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue; hope is an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to hope.”
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