It is told of Napolean, that upon passing a synagogue during the Ninth of Av, looked inside and saw Jews sitting on the floor and weeping. When he inquired further he was told the Jews were mourning over the destruction of their Holy Temple. “How long ago did this occur?”, he asked. “About 1,500 years ago”. “In that case”, said Napolean, “there is no doubt that their Temple will be rebuilt. A people capable of crying for so long over its destroyed Temple and Land will eventually find its way home.”
While the Jewish People remained in the Exile, this was a nice story.Without a doubt, its optimistic message encouraged our people during times of severe hardships. Napolean was keen enough to realize that a people who relives its past will succeed in conquering its future. Indeed, our sages have already stated that, “He who mourns for Jerusalem will merit to share in her joy”. (Trachtate Taanit, 30)
However there exists one little problem. All this mourning was appropriate when we were forced into the Exile, being held at the mercy of the gentile nations and thus unable to forge our national destiny. In such a case, it was fitting to mourn “whole-heartedly” over our destroyed Temple and land. And today? One need not to have a Ph.D. in history to see how things have changed since the times of Napolean. Then – the land of Israel lay desolate; today it is rebuilt. Then – Jews dreamt about coming to Israel; today Jews not only live in Israel, but they rule over it. Then – all we could do was cry… but today???
Is mourning the only imperative for today? Is it not a bit absurd to lament in the synagogue of the Exile, beseeching G-d for a speedy redemption, when all one need do is pack one’s bags and board an eastbound El Al. Is it enough to stand down by the “Wall” of the Temple Mount wailing over the destruction when it is in our hands to erect the fallen city; in our hands to purify the site from the foxes who degrade it, and yes, even in our hands to rebuild the Holy Temple! The historic opportunity to rebuild and renew burns in our hands, and instead we find 101 excuses to disregard it.
Fellow Jews! Let us open our eyes and appreciate the wondrous miracles that Hashem has granted us – miracles we have not witnessed since the days of our exodus from Egypt! He who cried, and only cried in the days of Napolean did right; his tears were sincere. But today, he who only cries and does not combine his tears with real action – his lamentations leave much to be desired. His entreaties go unheeded, for G-d urges us on as he did to the Jews before their crossing of the Red Sea: “Why do you cry to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel – that they go forward!” What are you crying for? Go forward and determine your destiny! Arise and act to sanctify G-d’s Name!
Yes, something has happened since the day Napolean walked into that shteeble on the Ninth of Av. Let us join those who are ready not only to cry, but also to do!