Relationship Advice: How Can You Mourn Something That You Never Really Had?
Updated: Aug 5
How can mourning the destruction of the Temple improve your relationships?
How can you mourn something you never really had to begin with?
The summer programs are in full swing, the beaches are full, and there isn’t a rain cloud in the sky for miles. The warm weather is a great excuse to have a good time, relax, and enjoy a break. Even while we’re enjoying the sunny days and the breezy nights, it’s important to take the time to reflect what this time of year means from a Jewish perspective.
Each time summer comes around, we as Jews are reminded of what we lost, and are still mourning for, thousands of years later.
And through this, we learn an important lesson about relationships.
We are in the midst of an annual mourning period which commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple and the beginning of a 2000 year exile, starting from the year 70 C.E.
Even as Israel has regained independence in the year 1948, and even Jews are becoming more influential on the world stage, we are struggling to embody our role as ‘a light unto the nations’ in the face of an important missing quality.
Everyone needs a home. The Jews need a homeland, Israel, and G-d needs a home too. What is God’s Home? Kabbalah explains that G-d’s home on earth is The Holy Temple, which was built and stood over 2000 years ago.
But let’s take a few steps back…
Why does G-d need a home?
The truth is, He doesn’t really need a home. He is infinite by definition. He can’t be contained in a physical manifestation, since He does not have one. So why did we need to build a Holy Temple centuries ago, and why are we still mourning its destruction?
Furthermore, no matter how realistic the VR technology is, I nor you, nor anyone reading this blog post in 2022, has any clue as to what it was like to visit the Holy Temple. It was destroyed in 70 CE. So how can we mourn something we never actually experienced before?
What is so significant about a home, and why do we need to experience the loss of it?
The answer, according to Kabbalistic interpretation, is that we need G-d to have home. The Holy Temple was a place for the relationship between G-d and humanity to flourish.
Where does a relationship with another person take place? You might respond by thinking of places you might encounter
that person, be it a spouse, friend, or family member. Is it the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom, or a cafe where you meet for coffee every so often?
The answer is, none of the above. You can be in a relationship with a significant other whilst being in separate rooms, separate countries, and even separate mental states. The fact is, your relationship with someone exists in your heart and mind; it is a state of being connected to another person that you carry with you wherever you go.
You can be totally consumed by a thought, feeling, or action, but still be intimately tied to another person. The relationship still exists, it may still be alive and vibrant, even while the two of you are miles apart.
Similarly, our relationship with G-d still exists, even while we are disconnected from Him. Even though we are in exile, even when we are not aware of Him, the connection has never been lost. The relationship between G-d and the Jewish People is one that is continuously seen throughout history.
There is one question that remains. Sure, a relationship can exist between two people even if they are both elsewhere. But in order for a relationship to attain potency, it needs a place to develop.
While this internal connection is enough to maintain a relationship, it needs more than that to properly sustain it. Eventually, the relationship breaks down if there isn’t space for communication, connection, and bonding. This is where the importance of a home- a space for the relationship to develop- comes in.
Relationships thrive in the experience of privacy. The privacy between one person and another, between family members and friends, is what adds that sense of meaning and satisfaction. We clearly see the other person for who they are, we can appreciate them, and we can have a conversation without distraction.
When we mourn the Holy Temple, we are not mourning something intangible. We are not mourning an architectural masterpiece, or a triumph of our nation’s history. There is something that existed hand in hand with the Holy Temple that we, in our modern lives, can truly resonate with.
When we mourn the Holy Temple, we are mourning the lack of clarity in our lives and our relationships. Specifically, our relationship with ourselves and our relationship with G-d. We are missing the recognition of our higher purpose. We are missing that potency, that emphasis that can only be achieved in the venue of privacy and connection.
We live in a world that is full of distractions. Today, it is as hard as ever to maintain this quality privacy in our relationships. How many times have we seen significant others out for dinner together, but instead of connecting, they are both scrolling on social media? Here’s where the idea of the Temple can impact the way we approach our relationships. We strengthen our connection with others by building walls against distractions, by making our time with them sacred and special.
When the Temple existed, all Jews would travel at least three times a year or more from all over to experience that sensation of privacy in their personal connection to G-d. This was achieved by each participating in personal practices, ceremonies, and prayers, as well as witnessing the miracles that took place there. People would take a break from their day-to-day lives and focus inward on a spiritual journey to Jerusalem.
On the outside, The Holy Temple was called a ‘house of prayer for all the nations’- anyone, from any nationality would come to pray, in any language, and be answered.
This is exactly what we see today at the Western Wall, the last remainder of the Outer Temple that is still standing. Thousands of people each day still visit this holy site.
The inner courtyard of the Temple was the designated place for only the Jewish nation and those that joined the Jewish nation, to pray. There, Jews had the privacy to experience their connection with G-d in the most profound way. They would see the miracles, feel the pride and joy in carrying out this holy purpose of creation. It was a place for a relationship to be nurtured, for a family to bond, a home- in every sense of the word.
It is this piece that we are mourning for when we think about the destruction of the Temple. It is this hope that we can once again experience this special bond between G-d and the Jewish people, not just in our hearts and minds, but in our true home, again.