Tisha BeAv- Having Our Prayers Answered Through Unity
Megilat Echa (3:8) laments, “Gam Ki Ez’ak Va’ashev’a Satam Tefilati” – “Even when I cry out and plead, my prayer is blocked.” At the time of the Temple’s destruction, there were righteous people who prayed and pleaded to G-d to annul His decree and not destroy the Bet Ha’mikdash. Unfortunately, however, these prayers were “blocked” and could not achieve their desired result.
Why were these prayers “blocked”?
Kabbalistic sources teach that all the negative forces in the world are under the authority of two “generals,” who are named Mahalat and Lili-t (it is customary not to pronounce the name of the second one). These two angels of destruction, it is taught, were always fighting with one another, and this prevented calamity from striking. As they were constantly embroiled in conflict with each other, they were unable to work together to bring destruction upon Am Yisrael. At the time of destruction of the Bet Ha’mikdash, however, these two angels managed to put aside their differences and join forces. This bonding had the effect of filling the world with forces of Tum’a (impurity), and these forces blocked the righteous Jews’ prayers from ascending to the heavens. As a result, these prayers could not annul the decree. And thus the verse laments, “Satam Tefilati” – all the heartfelt prayers to stop the destruction were “blocked” and never reached the heavens.
The great Kabbalist Rav Moshe Galanti (Safed, 16th century) explains on this basis the comment of the famous Mishna in Pirkeh Abot which instructs us to be “Oheb Shalom Ve’rodef Shalom” – “A lover of peace and a pursuer of peace.” He writes that when we love peace, and maintain unity and peaceful relations among our nation, then G-d will “pursue” and destroy the peace between these two “generals” of evil. As long as we get along peacefully with one another, the two angels of destruction will quarrel with one another and thus be unable to harm us. It is only when we fight among ourselves that unity is maintained between these two angels, enabling them to wreak havoc in our world.
The key to redemption is unity and peace, being kind and loving to one another, even to those with whom we disagree and of whose actions we disapprove.
There was once a man who was praying in Shaare Zion and objected to the fact that somebody else, who was known to be far less than strictly Torah observant, received an Aliya. The man expressed his objection to Hacham Baruch Ben-Haim, who assured the man that this other fellow was allowed to receive an Aliya. When the man continued to voice his disapproval, Hacham Baruch said, “Many years ago, there was a man here in this synagogue who was known not to be particularly observant, but Hacham Yaakob Kassin allowed him to receive an Aliya. Rather than rejecting him, Hacham Yaakob decided it was best to welcome the man with love and friendship.
“That man,” Hacham Baruch continued, “was your father. You are observant today because your father was warmly welcomed and respected when he was not yet strictly religious.”
This period, when we mourn the destruction of the Bet Ha’mikdash, is the time especially suited for increasing our level of tolerance and love for those with whom we disagree. We need to work together and show one another respect and friendship even if we follow different lifestyles and have different views about important matters. When we see people who are not as meticulous about Halacha as we think they should be, we are naturally disturbed, as well we should be, given the importance of religious observance. But anger and hostility is not the appropriate response. Nothing positive can possibly result from arrogantly and condescendingly criticizing people for what we perceive as their religious laxity. If we want to precipitate change, then to the contrary, this can be achieved only through warmth, friendship and love.
If we succeed in building and maintaining peaceful relations within our community and between the various communities in Am Yisrael, then we will succeed in breaking the unity between the forces of evil so that our prayers for redemption will, once and for all, be answered, and Tisha B’Ab will then be transformed into a day of great joy and festivity, Amen.