“Be glad for Jerusalem and rejoice over her, all who love her. Rejoice greatly with her, all who mourn over her.” [Isaiah 66:10]
From here it is stated: Whoever mourns Jerusalem merits and sees her joy, and whoever does not mourn Jerusalem does not see her joy.
[Tanna d’Vei Eliyahu Rabba, 28; also Gemara Ta’anit 30b; Bava Batra 60b]
Why is it that one who does not mourn Jerusalem will not merit seeing her joy? Why is this the necessary condition? Certainly, if we were to ask those who do not mourn Jerusalem today if they will be happy when she is rebuilt, the answer will be an emphatic “yes.” Why then do Chazal (Our Sages) connect mourning Jerusalem and rejoicing in her future?
Furthermore, why do Chazal use the present tense, “merits and sees?” Apparently, they should have phrased it in the future tense “will merit and see,” since Chazal speak of a future event. Currently, Jerusalem is not rejoicing, since the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) is lacking. Why, then did Chazal employ the present tense?
The Beit HaMikdash Indeed Exists and Stands
Chatam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer [Schreiber] 1762 – 1839) explains the Midrash based upon Rashi’s comment concerning the posuk’s (verse’s) statement that Ya’akov refused to be comforted for the (presumed) death of Yosef [Breishit 37:35]: “מכאן שאין מקבלין תנחומין על החי” (“This teaches that one does not accept consolation for a living person whom he believes to be dead”). Rashi explains that the reason Ya’akov refused to be consoled for Yosef was the fact that Yosef was still alive and within his soul Ya’akov believed him to be alive and he therefore continued to be distressed over Yosef’s absence from him. Only if the mourned one is actually dead, does the mourner truly accept condolence, knowing that the departed will not return.
So, it is with Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash, says Chatam Sofer. The reason we continue to mourn them and not take consolation is the fact that we believe Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash will be rebuilt. Thus, one who does not mourn Jerusalem effectively asserts that she will not be rebuilt.
Beyond this, Chatam Sofer asserts that Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash are already built up, in the Heavenly Jerusalem and the Heavenly Beit HaMikdash. It is only the earthly Jerusalem and Beit HaMikdash, which, through our sins, are missing. This is the reason Chazal used the present tense; one who truly mourns Jerusalem mourns her because he understands that in her authentic form she is in existence. The mourner believes that Jerusalem exists and with God’s help will be rebuilt on earth. He thus sees Jerusalem’s joy in the present, and rejoices in her consolation, knowing that she will be rebuilt.
Based upon Chatam Sofer’s comments, Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriya explains that this is the reason we read verses of comfort on Tisha b’Av; it conveys our belief that mourning of Jerusalem is an expression of faith that she will be rebuilt. If Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash’s destruction were merely acts of our enemies, we would have no basis for hope; however, since the destruction is the Divine plan, we are certain that God will restore our loss.
To Merit Seeing the Process of Jerusalem Being Rebuilt
We may offer an additional approach to answering the questions we raised, based upon a parable: Two men are in the open sea, one on a rickety raft, having been saved from a sinking ship, the second is sitting on an easy chair on the deck of a luxurious ocean liner. The first, hungry and exhausted awaits his salvation. The second has his drink in one hand and all variety of treats on the other, while an orchestra plays in the background. Both men gaze at the horizon. If another ship approaches, it is clear that the man on the raft will be the first to notice it, even with the faintest glimmer, since his life depends upon that ship. The one on the luxury liner has no need to look for another ship, from his perspective, all is well.
Yalkut Shimoni [Tehilim 22] writes:
Rabbi Chiyya bar Abba and Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta were taking an early morning walk through the Arbel valley when they saw the dawn break. Rabbi Chiyya said “Thus is the redemption of Israel, as the verse states: ‘Although I will sit in darkness, the Lord is a light to me;’ [Micah 7:8] initially there is a little bit of light, but then it breaks forth, expanding and increasing.”
That is, Am Yisrael’s redemption will be a gradual process, which expands and develops.
In his book Mesilat Yesharim, Rabbi Moshe Chayyim Luzzatto quotes Tanna d’Vei Eliyahu [Parasha 4]:
Any wise man in Israel who has a true Torah insight and who sighs for the glory of God and for that of Israel all his days and who yearns for and is troubled for respect of Jerusalem and the Temple and for the salvation which will blossom soon and for the ingathering of the exiles will merit ruacḥ hakodesh in his words.
Rabbi Luzzatto adds:
The pious person, in additional to his (Divine) service in performing mitzvot with the proper intent certainly must be deeply troubled at all times by the exile and the destruction (of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash), by virtue of the fact that they diminish God’s glory. And he should long fir the redemption since it will raise the glory of God. This is what is sated in Tanna d’Vei Eliyahu.
Essentially, the pious person who mourns the destruction out of distress for the glory of God and the desecration of His name resulting from the destruction is the one who truly awaits redemption and the speedy revelation of the Divine glory.
Based upon this, Rabbi Levi Yitzḥak of Berditchev explained the Midrash with which we began. Am Yisrael’s redemption is a gradual process, in each generation rays of light appear within the darkness of exile, but they are not easily discerned. Thus, Chazal say “One who mourns Jerusalem merits and sees its joy.” Only one who mourns Jerusalem and is pained by her destruction is able to see, in the present, the joy of the impending redemption. Only one for whom redemption is close to his soul and vital for him can see the impending redemption within the darkness of exile.
Just as in our parable of the two men at sea, the one whose life depends upon a ship arriving to save him will perceive that ship from a distance, so too one whose (spiritual) life depends upon Jerusalem and the Temple will eagerly await and seek the ship which will save him.
For us to see the impending salvation, to see the glimmer of Jerusalem’s ongoing rebuilding, we must value Jerusalem, we must feel that she is incomplete and missing in our lives. We must mourn the lack of the rebuilt Jerusalem and Temple, to be truly troubled by this loss and to yearn for their rebuilding. If we do not see the glimmers of salvation it is because we do not sincerely desire the redemption.
Chazal taught that only one who mourns Jerusalem will see its joy. We asked why this is so, also asking why Chazal worded their comment in the present tense.
We presented two answers. The first, based upon the comments of Chatam Sofer that one cannot be consoled for a person who is alive. The heavenly Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash exist, and the loss is only on earth. Jerusalem is alive for us and we therefore continue to mourn her destruction and do not accept condolences. Nonetheless, we do have contemporary condolence in the fact that Jerusalem and the Temple exist in heaven and we are certain that they will be rebuilt on earth, speedily in our days.
He second answer, based upon the words of Rabbi Levi Yitzḥak of Berditchev, is that only one for whom Jerusalem is genuinely lacking, who sincerely anticipates her being rebuilt, is able to perceive the subtle signs of light within the darkness of exile which indicate the arrival of redemption and Jerusalem’s rebuilding. Only one to whom Jerusalem is vital can see the faint glimmers of the impending redemption. Thus, one who mourns Jerusalem from the depths of his heart and feels it lack will perceive the redemption unfolding gradually.
It is impossible to fail to see Jerusalem’s rebuilding in recent generations and Israel’s redemption, which is developing gradually.
May our yearning for the rebuilding of Jerusalem hasten the return of the Shechina to Zion with the building of the Beit HaMikdash. Amen.