The Day After

At midday Wednesday, the halachic restrictions associated with the Three Weeks and the Nine Days end. But although the calendar indicates that this sad time is over, we actually mourn Yerushalayim throughout the entire year. Various halachos and minhagim that remind us of this reality have been faithfully passed down through the generations — such as breaking a glass under the chuppah and leaving unpainted a portion of a wall in one’s home.

Chazal teach us that “All those who mourn for Yerushalayim merit and witness her joy, and all those who do not mourn for Yerushalayim will not merit to witness her joy.”

The first part of this Chazal can be understood fairly easily: in the merit of mourning the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, one will merit to witness the joy of her rebuilding. But the second part calls for an explanation. It would seem to suggest that even if someone performs all the mitzvos to perfection and serves Hashem with every fiber of his being, if he somehow neglects to properly mourn for Yerushalayim he will not merit to see her joy.

Can one possibly imagine the humiliation, the unbearable agony to be experienced by those who, on that glorious day of the coming of Moshiach, will not be permitted to witness the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash? Can a more devastating punishment possibly exist?

How is it possible that this single fault — egregious as it may be — should manage to wipe out the cumulative merits of a lifetime of Torah, tefillah and chessed?

This can be answered with a parable of a prince who rebelled against his father, a mighty king. After repeated warnings went unheeded, the king felt he had no choice but to banish his son from the comforts of the royal palace and send him into exile among the peasants.

The king, who wished only to force his son onto the right path, had no intention of making the exile eternal. However, he knew that although a greater contrast did not exist than that between life in the palace and life as a peasant, over time the prince would learn to adjust to a new, harsh way of life.

This in itself caused a new challenge. Once the prince got used to a loutish, uncouth way of life, with its coarse food and uncivilized eating habits, it would be impossible for him to readjust to the royal lifestyle when he finally returned to the palace. Not only would the prince not know how to appreciate and relate to the life of a prince; his body, used to living the life of a peasant, would not appreciate the fine foods and elegant comforts of royalty.

The only solution would be to somehow ensure that through the long years of exile the prince would never lose sight of the life he once led. He must constantly remember how to appreciate and relate to the comforts of the palace, and make certain that his body never forgot how to digest them.

So, too, the Yid, his starving soul long deprived of the sublime holiness of the Beis Hamikdash, remains in constant danger of growing accustomed to the coarse, materialistic and impure atmosphere of galus. This, in turn, means that even on that wonderful day when the eternal dream and inner yearning of every Jew will finally be fulfilled, our spiritual condition will have so deteriorated that we will not be able to relate to, properly appreciate, or cope with the loftiness of a Beis Hamikdash.

Therefore, “Those who do not mourn for Yerushalayim will not merit to witness her joy.” For only those who remained spiritually connected to Yerushalayim will be on the level to be able to “witness” and relate to her joy.

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There is actually another version of the aforementioned Chazal that is often quoted. Instead of using the term “joy,” it states, “All those who mourn for Yerushalayim merit to witness her consolation, and all those who do not mourn for Yerushalayim don’t merit to witness her consolation.”

The Chasam Sofer points out that Chazal use the present rather than the future tense in reference to the consolation. For the very fact that we still mourn the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash is, in itself, a consolation. There is a limit to the amount of time one mourns a deceased; as time passes, the most acute pain passes. However, Chazal tell us that this doesn’t apply to the living, and that is why Yaakov Avinu continued to mourn Yosef throughout the years of separation.

The fact that we refuse to allow ourselves to be consoled over Yerushalayim and continue to grieve for what we have lost is living proof that we are still connected. This, in itself, is a consolation.