I often spend the holiday of Tisha B’Av in North America, where I grew up, while longing for my current home in the Holy Land. As I reflect on this disastrous day on the Hebrew calendar, when both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, I feel a yearning for Jerusalem.
There is a Jewish saying, “You are where your thoughts are,” and as I listen to the rabbi solemnly read from the book of Lamentations, tears run down my face. Following along in my Bible with the bitter narrative of what took place during the calamity of losing the holy Temples, my heart mourns.
The eerie silence in the synagogue is chilling. “After affliction and harsh labour, Judah has gone into exile,” the rabbi chants in a slow, steady, mournful tone, and we – the congregation – feel the striking pain of the prophet Jeremiah’s words from thousands of years ago, as he spoke about a city thousands of miles away.
Many people wonder how the Jewish people have stayed alive and faithful throughout their exile, despite the anti-Semitism, hatred, and killings that have uprooted us from nearly every foreign land that we have begun to call home since the destruction of the Temple. I never really have a good answer to this legitimate question.
Yet, as I look around my synagogue at the hundreds of men, women, and children sitting on the floor mourning a Temple that we never knew firsthand, crying tears over priests and prophets that we never met, and painfully longing and praying for the merit of walking the rebuilt, peaceful streets of Jerusalem, I clearly realize what has kept the Jewish people strong, unified, and faithful in the darkest times.
The Jewish people have survived this torturous exile because we never forgot where we came from, nor have we lost sight of where we are going. We have maintained an unwavering faith in the words of the Bible and the prophets that tell us that we come from Jerusalem. No matter where we are in the world, holidays like Tisha B’Av remind us that we are always on a path back to Jerusalem. The words of the prophets ring true in our hearts, and remind us that despite our exile of thousands of years, the Jewish people do indeed have a home, times will surely get better, and God has never left our side.
It is our faith that has helped us survive the difficult realities throughout the generations, and it is our faith that is leading us home to Israel now.
As I listen to the description in the book of Lamentations of the hungry children that laid on the streets of Jerusalem when the Temple was destroyed, I mourn. It is difficult to read lines that describe Jerusalem as widowed and deserted, and it disturbs me when Jeremiah describes how no one in the world spoke out against this destruction.
Two thousand years ago the prophets spoke about better days that are yet to come, and as I work tirelessly to further the work of The Fellowship, I am blessed to see some of those prophecies come to fruition. Remembering the sadness of Tisha B’Av, I think about the Jewish people who have come home “on the shoulders of the gentiles,” and about the widows and abandoned children being cared for by The Fellowship, and I feel hope.
I thank God that today, because of The Fellowship, the Jewish people know that we are no longer alone. I find comfort and faith in knowing that for the first time in history we have thousands of Christian friends in Canada who love Jerusalem and find blessings in helping Israel’s people. Together, we are returning the Jewish people to the holy city of Jerusalem, and getting a glimpse into the renewal of the days of old (Lamentations 1:7).
With blessings from the Holy Land,