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Thursday, August 03, 2006

In rebuilding we are destroyed and in destruction we are rebuilt

In rebuilding we are destroyed and in destruction we are rebuilt.

Change is death but it is also life for in every change a part of the thing changed, a part of us, is also destroyed. Yet the paradox is that change is also life for all that lives must change to live or perish. Life itself is a process of changes. The very way in which we identify life is the rhythm of movement, of activity, of change. Life itself is therefore a series of little deaths, a series of changes that propel us in a variety of directions.

There are different reasons why people mourn. We mourn an irreversible passing such as death, yet we also believe that this death may be irreversible in the here and now, but it is not final, and what we mourn is itself a temporary loss in the here and now. We exhaust our very human emotions stored inside our all too human bodies with mourning for a physical loss and giving us time to recognize that even the physical loss and certainly not the spiritual loss, is not eternal but as temporal as our physicalities.

The loss of the temple, of the city of G-d becoming merely a city of men, in some ways resembles this. Certainly the temple will be rebuilt. G-d has promised that to us. What is lost will be restored. Zion will be rebuilt with gladness. Once again celebrants will walk its roads and paths to give thanks to G-d for his eternal and infinite mercies. The reunion is confirmed, there is only the matter of the date to be set. Why then do we mourn.

We cannot say that we mourn to obtain closure as with the dead. Indeed we are encouraged to show signs of mourning for the loss of the temple throughout the year. Rather the mourning for the temple is a focal point, not merely for a show of grief. After all grief is finite, we exhaust it and then we slowly and painfully move on. Our mourning, unlike for a loved one, is not a goodbye, but a greeting. A desire for return what was lost by making its loss into a focal point not for empty mourning, not for empty grief but for an active struggle for change.

The memories we carry within us, form us, shape us, become our identity. That which we are mindful of, which we commemorate, whose dates we remember defines who we are. The Americans, the French celebrate dates when their nations were built. We mourn dates of destruction, when our nation was lost. But unlike the Arabs whose narratives focus on nothing but blaming others for their misfortunes, we turn our attention to those truly responsible, to ourselves because to understand the ways in which we are responsible for our own misfortunes is the beginning of change.

It is impossible to change without understanding the ways in which you are wrong. It requires a pressure to force change. Often change requires destroying what exists now in order to uproot the status quo, rattling the cage to force us to confront a new reality. In our exile we have stumbled from land to land, from condition to condition. We've sunk into a rut for a few centuries, begun assimilating, imagining ourselves Spanish, Frenchmen, Dutchmen, Algerians, Americans and we are uprooted again and forced to try and rebuild our lives and reevaluate our existence.

In rebuilding we are destroyed and in destruction we are rebuilt.

Each act of rebuilding is also an act of destruction for to do otherwise is to try and shore up shoddy work. Each act of destruction is also an act of rebuilding for it sets the stage for a new building to begin. When we mourn we do not merely mourn the destruction but the state of affairs that made it necessary and thus we set our minds on the changes that need to occur so that building can begin again. When that is complete then truly from destruction building will come and a day of mourning will turn to a day of joy for then we shall see how the seeds of our rebirth were always dormant in the destruction we mourned.


  1. Thanks for the great article.

  2. Sounds like an essay on MS. :] It tears your body down and then you have to rebuild. Unfortunately, with MS, there comes a time when it simply tears you down and there's no hope of rebuilding.

    B"H, our future isn't like that. Our people may get torn down, but there will always be a rebuilding.

  3. What a beautiful article. TY.

    (btw, the problem I had must have been with blogger. Thankfully, the blackness is gone and I can read your articles again).



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