Napoleon's Response to a Crying Nation
By Rabbi Moishe Kievman Chabad Chayil
July 22, 2021
Legend has it that Napoleon, the great French leader, was once passing through a small town in Europe, when he heard weeping. Wanting to know what was going on, he followed the sound to inside a building, where he found men, women and children sitting on low chairs & benches, crying. The building was a synagogue and the room which had a magnificent candelabra chandelier at its center, it only had a few candles lit.
Bothered by the scene and wanting an explanation, Napoleon inquired to the reason for their sadness. They explained that they were mourning for the destruction of the temple. At that point, Napoleon became very angered that people would have the audacity to harm the Temple of such good people, inquired further, as to where the damage was and whatever parts he saw, that still looked intact. No no, they explained. "We're mourning for the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the Beit Hamikdash, that was destroyed by Rome over 1700 years ago. Once a year on Tisha B'Av, the 9th day on the Jewish month of Av, we get together to read the Book of Lamentations and mourn the Temple's destruction while praying that we very soon merit its rebuilding."
To this Napoleon responded, "WOW! A people that remembers the destruction of their land and temple after so many hundreds of years, will surely witness its rebuilding." Tisha B'Av was actually the day that both Temples were destroyed. The First Temple built by King Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians (modern day Iraq) in 3338 (423 bce). After completing the building of the Second Temple in 3412 (349 bce), it too was destroyed on the 9th of Av, this time by the Romans in 3829 (69 ce). That was also the day on which the Jews were expelled from Spain in 5252 (1492 ce), the start of World War I in 5674 (1914 ce) and the Gush Katif expulsion in 5765 (2005 ce).
If you were to witness any such atrocity, how would you respond? What would you say? What would you do?
The Talmud tells us that although the Babylonians & Romans did the dirty work, it was actually the will of G-d, due to the people not behaving in a loving way one to another. Furthermore, the Talmud tells us that as long as the Temple is not rebuilt in our time, it's as if, it was destroyed in our time!
In other words, since we still don't have the Temple rebuilt, it's as if it's being destroyed in front of our very eyes! We are witnesses to those atrocities! Help! The Temple is on fire!
The good news is that we know what to do. By acting in kind ways to one another, by loving thy neighbor, by simply being good people, we will surely see the Third Temple built in a peaceful Jerusalem. Ah! If we would only merit to enjoy it, this year in Jerusalem!
To learn more about Tisha B'Av, see our web-site at: www.ChabadChayil.org/3weeks
After all that we’ve been through this year, this Tisha B’Av, the prayers will be so much deeper and meaningful. From COVID, Meron and political unrest, to right here in Surfside, there isn't a family in the world that hasn’t suffered, or even worse, lost someone close to them. It’s precisely at these challenging times, that we must come together and pray and plead that G-d will end all pain and suffering in the world, bring us to an era of peace and prosperity. You can learn more about that era, at: www.ChabadChayil.org/Moshiach.
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About the author: Rabbi Kiev-man is the ambassador of The Rebbe to Highland Lakes, FL. He's founder of CHAP - an afterschool program for Jewish children in Public Schools, rabbi at The Family Shul & together with his wife directs Chabad Chayil. You can subscribe to his weekly newsletter and reach him by calling: (305) 770-1919. Or by e-mail: rabbi@ChabadChayil.org