Based on Likutey Halakhot, Milah 5:18
What is it that we are mourning in these three weeks, from the 17th of Tammuz to the 9th of Av? Yes, certainly, “the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple),” but what does that mean? Was it some historical or architectural landmark that was razed by a brute, thoughtless enemy? Obviously it is more than that. Otherwise we would have ceased caring long, long ago.
Nu, so what is it that we mourn? Among the many thought-provoking ideas Rebbe Nachman gave us is this: If you want to truly see, close your eyes. What he meant was: If you want to stay focused on the goal of life and the Oneness of God, you must close your eyes to the distractions of this world.
When the Beit HaMikdash stood, we had a place to attend where we could engage in bitul. What is bitul? It is the culmination of a process which leads one to the greatest realization of God s/he can have while still alive. Sounds good, huh? Actually, it’s better than good. Much better. But it takes a long period of genuine effort to achieve it. And since one cannot live life while in a bitul, one must also learn how to return from that state to an ordinary state of consciousness.
The process begins by closing your eyes. The vast majority of people perceive themselves as nothing more than the bodily pleasures that they enjoy, the things they own or their career. To whatever extent we need to enjoy, own and work, we must be vigilant in not letting them overwhelm us. But they have and they still do.
This is why we cry. Nitrachaknu—we have become alienated from our God, His land and His temple. Reb Noson writes something that to us moderns sounds astounding, if not downright unfathomable. He writes that just as the more one has gained self-control over his physicality he more deeply and easily achieves bitul; and just as bitul is more easily and deeply attained on Shabbat than on a weekday; so, too, is it more easily and deeply achieved in the Land of Israel than anywhere else in the world. And the most conducive location for bitul in the Land of Israel is the Beit HaMikdash.
Oy! How tragic that we cannot focus on life’s true purpose. Oy! How tragic that we cannot achieve full-fledged bitul. Oy! How tragic that we cannot perceive God’s Oneness and His Oneness with creation. Thank God we still understand that we’re missing something and we want it back. May we see the coming of Mashiach, swiftly and soon, in our lifetime. Amen.
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