“This too shall pass”
– the wise words of King Solomon to a sultan who requested a saying that would always be true – in good times and bad (Quoted from an unattributed version of English poet Edward Fitzgerald’s collection, titled “Solomon’s Seal). Millennia later Abraham Lincoln expanded on this, commenting: “How consoling, in the depths of affliction!”
Just like the natural flow in nature with its ebbs and flows, so the Hebrew calendar also breathes. After three weeks of intense rituals of remembering that lead us gradually to the ninth of Av, the day of the final decimation of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., one can almost feel the relief seeping through by the time Tu b’Av (15th of Av) arrives.
Tu b’Av is a minor festival, yet it represents a very important dynamic. It is called a festival to G-d in Judges 21:19. As we discovered that many hard times befell the Jewish people through history during the three weeks, so too many turn-arounds commenced during Tu b’Av.
Tu b’Av is generally known as the “Valentine’s Day” on the Hebrew Calender. In ancient times the daughters of Israel would go out and dance in the vineyards, all of them dressed in white. It was a day of matchmaking. The date further marks a time of forgiveness and purification.
Lifting the Barriers
But there is another very important event that happened on Tu b’Av: King Hoshe’a ben Elah, the last king of Israel, removed the blockades that prevented the people from the northern kingdom to ascend to Jerusalem for the Pilgrimage Festivals. Tu b’Av is the time when barriers are dismantled and as much as it is for a nation, so too it is for the individual. To understand the importance of this we need to understand what these barriers represented.
These barriers were set up by King Yerovam ben Nevat, who severed the Kingdom of Israel in the North from the Kingdom of Yehuda in the South. Yerovam thereby succeeded in cutting off his followers in the North from Jerusalem, which had been the national source of spiritual wellbeing.
Let that sink in for a moment. To compensate his followers for not being able to participate in the holy Festivals in Jerusalem, he erected two calves, one far North in Dan and one in the South in Beit El and by so doing, led the nation into idolatry. “You can’t get the real thing? No worries! We’ll give you something much better and much more “user friendly”. We’re replacing Jerusalem. We’re upgrading “Jerusalem” to our needs. Think about it. Jerusalem (and what it stands for) is so last year anyway!”
A few generations later, King Hoshe’a rises to power and heroically dismantles the barriers. Amazing, right? Not quite. Hoshe’a was severly punished. So much for good intentions. He got punished, not because he annulled the barriers, rather because he didn’t follow through on the responsibility of what lifting those barriers entailed.
By that time the people of the northern kingdom were so brainwashed that they could not return voluntarily, reconnect with Jerusalem and resume their responsibilities. They lived by the existing “truth” that Jerusalem has been replaced with something gold and shiny, standing lifelessly but comfortably in their own backyard. So why break down barriers if you can’t even remember why they were put up in the first place?
Great power necessitates great responsibility
If you want to do something heroic and super significant, then you have to take the full responsibility of what that action entails. Great power necessitates great responsibility. By lifting the barriers and not educating the people, Hoshe’a placed the liability of the people on their own shoulders when they did not even know that they are even liable of such a great error.
Fast forward 2000 years… Same principle, different day. It’s time to return to Jerusalem, the real Jerusalem. The barriers have been lifted a long time ago. And not just that, the core of Jerusalem – where it all began, has been rising slowly from dust and ashes for the last 25 years. Now one can actually walk the paths, touch its ancient walls and dip your feet in what Isaiah refers to as the living waters of the Gihon spring. Even the last stretch of the Pilgrim Road, on which every pilgrim ascended to Temple Mount is being cleared of debris as this article is written.
“…Clear the way for the people; Build up, build up the highway, Remove the stones,” (Isaiah 62:10)
Indeed, another prophecy fulfillment and again in the very place where it all began – Ancient Biblical Jerusalem. It has been restored, waiting for your return.
Acknowledging that the barriers have been dismantled in your own individual life is not enough. You have to break the mental barriers of living in the comfort zone that you might not even have created yourself, but one that has been keeping you from doing the right thing. As we all figure out how to get out of our own dusty situations, let’s catch some inspiration from the Ancient Jerusalem herself.
God willing, if she can do it, so can you.
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