Rav Kook Torah

Tisha B'Av: Seeing Jerusalem in its Joy


“כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בשמחתה” (תענית ל:)

“All who mourn [the destruction of] Jerusalem will merit to see it in its joy.” (Ta’anit 30b)

At first glance, this statement seems peculiar. Why did the Sages say that those who mourn Jerusalem’s destruction will merit seeing it 'be-simchata' — “in its joy”? It would be more logical to say that they will merit seeing Jerusalem be-vinayana — when the city will be restored and rebuilt. After all, our primary wish is for the rebuilding of Jerusalem!

Rav Kook explained as follows: The Sages knew that when the time comes for Jerusalem to be rebuilt, everyone alive at that time will witness the city’s reconstruction. Even those who did not grieve Jerusalem’s destruction will see it being rebuilt.

The Sages formulated their statements with fine precision. True, many will see Jerusalem rebuilt. But only those who were pained by Jerusalem’s destruction will merit to see the city “in joy.” Only those who were grieved by its state of ruin will experience the great joy and simchah as Jerusalem is restored to its former glory.

Rejoicing in Jewish Sovereignty

In the exhilarating days following the 1920 San Remo conference, when the League of Nations adopted the Balfour Declaration, Rav Kook remarked:

“There are some Jews for whom international recognition of the Jewish people’s right to its land fails to inspire joy. This is because the primary focus of their mourning is the spiritual destruction of Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael. The bitter humiliation of the Land of Israel being subjected to foreign rule does not trouble them.

But for those who always felt a deep sorrow, not only for the destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of the Land, but for the absence of Jewish sovereignty in our land... the international declaration that the Land of Israel must return to the people of Israel is a source of joy. These individuals merit ‘to see Jerusalem in its joy.'”

Repairing the Sin of the Spies

Rav Kook’s dictum for the month of Av also speaks of our joy in witnessing the initial steps of Redemption:

“The nation’s jubilation over sparks of redemption will rebuild that which baseless crying destroyed.”

“Baseless crying” — bechiyah shel chinam — refers to the spies sent by Moses who spoke against the Land of Israel, causing the people to despair and weep in vain. What is the tikun for this sin? How do we correct their cries of despair?

We repair the sin of the spies, Rav Kook explained, with teshuvat ha-mishkal, with a good that counterbalances the evil. We must show excitement and joy as the Land of Israel is rebuilt, stone by stone.

We need not wait until the final stages of redemption to experience this excitement. Even if the redemption is only partial — even if there are only “sparks of redemption” — we should still feel great joy, and work toward expediting the process of redemption with all our strength.

As Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi noted at the end of his classic work, The Kuzari:

“Jerusalem will not be rebuilt until the Jewish people yearn for it with an utmost longing, until they cherish its very stones and dust.”

(Adapted from Mo'adei HaRe’iyah, pp. 567-568)