Consolation amid Destruction
The custom is to ease some laws of mourning after midday on Tisha b’Av. For example there is a minhag (custom) not to wear tefillin in the morning as a sign of mourning, but in the afternoon this becomes permitted (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 555:1). There is also a minhag to read verses of consolation in the afternoon. However, these customs need explanation in light of the gemara that says the Beit Hamikdash was set on fire on the ninth of Av during the late afternoon (Ta’anit 29a). According to this, why is it that we ease the intensity of the mourning specifically at that time? One would think that the mourning should be even more intense while the Beit Hamikdash was burning.
The gemara says that when the enemies came to desecrate the Beit Hamikdash, they removed the kruvim from the kodesh hakedoshim, and humiliated the Jewish people by dragging them through the streets. Chazal tell us that while this was happening, the kruvim were embracing each other (Yoma 54b). This gemara appears problematic, though, in light of another gemara that says that the kruvim only faced each other when
The commentaries explain that the Jewish People did not really believe that the Beit Hamikdash would actually be destroyed, and thus did not do adequate teshuva — they had been relying on the atonement, that the Beit Hamikdash provided them. In fact, some even felt that their spiritual state did not need any correction. The danger of being in such a situation is that one may easily end up destroying himself without realizing the repercussions of his actions. This is similar to someone receiving anesthesia at the dentist's office. The dentist warns the patient after receiving the anesthesia not to bite his lips. The dentist gives this instruction because the patient does not feel the pain from the bite, and may actually end up biting through his entire lip without noticing.
Consequently, the Jewish People understood the lesson behind the harsh reality of seeing the Beit Hamikdash destroyed, and responded with teshuva. In addition, the suffering that they experienced from the churban also aided in cleansing them from their sins.
The commentaries explain that this is why the kruvim were embracing each other at the time of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. It was a sign that
With this idea we can understand the following teaching of Chazal. The chapter of Tehillim that describes the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash starts with the words “Mizmor l’Asaf — A psalm for Asaf.” The Midrash asks: Why is this chapter called a song? Seemingly, it would be more fitting to call it a lamentation. The Midrash answers that when Asaf saw the Beit Hamikdash set on fire he understood that the Jewish peoples’ own lives were spared, as
We can now answer the question that we started with. When the enemy attacked, the Jewish nation was on the verge of annihilation, as decreed by
We may sill ask one more question: If the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash was for the best, as are all of