The Full Half of the Cup
"Why are all these men sitting on the ground and tearfully reading from those books?"
This is what a six-year-old asked his father who had taken him to the Kotel on Tisha B'Av.
"You see that wall?" asked the father as he pointed to the Kotel. "Once there were four such walls around the mountain on which stood the Beit Hamikdash. Now only one is left and the Beit Hamikdash is gone. This is why these Jews are mourning and tearfully saying kinot."
"But, Abba, don't we believe that Mashiach may come any day to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash and the walls around the mountain? One wall is already standing so all he has to do is build the other three!"
Exile is like a half full cup. During the three weeks between the Fast Days of 17 Tammuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by our enemies, and 9 Av when the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, we mourn the empty half of the cup which symbolizes our loss and our exile. It is important, however, not to lose sight of the full half of the cup and reflect on the blessings we enjoy even in our imperfect state.
When I arrived in Israel 49 years ago, Jews had no access to the Kotel. Nor to the Me’arat Hamachpelah in Chevron or Rachel's Tomb in Beit Lechem. How grateful we must be to G-d for granting us the opportunity to pray to Him at these holy sites!
And when I would spend time learning in the Beit Midrash of Yeshivat Mir in those days I was surprised to see a relatively small number of single and married students, including the late Rosh Hayeshiva, Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel, zatzal. When today I see the thousands who are learning there and constantly hear of the exciting growth of yeshivot and kollelim in Eretz Yisrael, I see before me the full half of the cup.
When my wife and I purchased our home in a new neighborhood in Jerusalem, we raised some eyebrows because it was so near to the Jordanian border and within range of the Arab artillery situated near the tomb of the Prophet Shmuel. We did experience some anxious hours as shells exploded around us at the outbreak of the Six Day War. But when we today see people flocking to that tomb to pray there and we see the Ramot neighborhood (where some of our children live) that has replaced the Jordanian presence, we see the full half cup.
Seeing the full half is both a consolation and a challenge. We must be thankful for the one Kotel and be aware that it is our responsibility to mourn, pray and improve ourselves in every way until the cup is completely full.