A Descent to Effect an Ascent

An article for the Syosset-Jericho Tribune

A Descent to Effect an Ascent

By Rabbi Chanan Krivisky

For 2,000 years, the Jewish people have been mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple (Beis HaMikdash) in Jerusalem, the nadir of Jewish history that thrust us into our current exile.  This week, the 9th of Av is this ominous day, mourning the loss of G-d’s Home and our shared experiential connection to G-d.

How is it that the Jewish people still exist?

Without a homeland, without central holy place, without a nationality, without seeing the Divine for 2,000 years… what is the secret to Jewish continuity?

When the Dalai Lama sought to preserve the Tibetan way of life he met with many Jewish leaders and asked this same question, hoping to learn our secret.

''The Jewish family kept the Covenant and the Torah alive,'' Dr. Blu Greenberg answered him. ''That, no doubt,'' she said, ''is one of our secrets.''

The survival of the Jewish people – individually and collectively – is dependent on this one and only, common factor.  With all other circumstances constantly in flux, that have sought to destroy and uproot us, whether internally or externally, one constant remains – the fulfillment of Mitzvot in day-to-day living as clearly embodied by the Torah that was given at Mount Sinai, and observed by Jews the same way throughout the millennia without change.

To find and access this singular factor, unfortunately we have been from the highest high to the lowest low.  The Jewish people have been dispersed into exile and faced every type of threat – both existential and physical - causing us to lose much, but yet bringing to the fore our unified, solitary strength by which we persevere and in fact thrive – Torah and Mitzvot.

This teaches us that any sad interlude in Jewish life is only transitory, and is based on the principle of “descent for the purpose of ascent.” In other words, any and all sad events in our history which are commemorated with a few sad days on our calendar are backward steps which are necessary for a greater forward leap. The very transition from sadness to gladness intensifies the joy, and adds real quality to it, which could not be appreciated otherwise.

Similarly the dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the world since the 9th of Av almost 20 centuries ago, in an anomalous diaspora both in length and severity, has also caused an unprecedented greater forward leap for all humanity.  A people without a common language, country or nationhood, and “few in number” have made contributions to the world at large “great and mighty and numerous” through their adherence to Torah and Mitzvot. 

As we seek a pathway forward, let us order our lives in fullest accord with the Torah and Mitzvot in daily life and conduct. This study and observance will serve as a catalyst to uncover the positive dimension of our reality, bringing forth all things good and positive. Then we will merit the fulfillment of the prayer, “Rebuild Your House as in former times and establish Your Sanctuary on its site; let us behold its construction, and cause us to rejoice in its com­pletion.”

May this take place immediately speedily bringing universal tranquility and thereby transforming all sadness turned into gladness.