Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn, Next stop is Jeru-sa-lam; And it’s five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates…
I read something recently about Tisha B’Av that I particularly enjoyed. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin asked “what is the real meaning of the fast?” Is it really mourning the destruction of Jerusalem, when we can see that “today’s city, despite our present difficulties, is splendid, majestic, bejeweled”? Is it really the destruction of the temple, if Rambam tells us that even when the second temple stood, we were still fasting on this day?
Most pointedly, what does it mean when Zechariah prophesizes that this fast day “shall become times of joy and gladness, cheerful festivals to the house of Judah. Therefore love the truth and peaceâ€¦”
See, that is not the only time that God’s mention of fasting is concluded with moral instruction such as “Execute true judgment and show loyal love and mercy every man to his brother, and do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the stranger or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart” ( Zachariah Ch. 7:8-10)
Riskin draws out the lesson that this day of fasting will turn into a day of joy not when there is simply a new temple or a rebuilt Jerusalem but when we have fully learned those lessons.
In other words, it’s not enough that Jerusalem’s Ben-Yehuda Street has kosher pizzerias. It’s not enough that we have Jewish sovereignty over a Jewish state, a Knesset and the largest yeshiva in the world. To cease fasting on Tisha Be’av is merely a means to an end – a means to repentance, particularly in the subtle areas of human relationships. We will stop fasting when the entire nation leads ethical and moral lives. We will stop fasting when Iran and North Korea understand the value of peace. We will stop fasting when…. the messianic age dawns…
“When the hour finally comes in which the whole world loves truth and peace, then we’ll be dancing in the streets on Tisha Be’av, the most vivid expression of the end of our long exile, and it’ll be like no other dance a nation has ever danced.”
I’ll fast to that.