Siyum Masechet Taanit

The 7.5-year Talmud daily learning cycle started January 5th 2020. Tractate Taanit, the ninth masechet of the cycle, was completed on December 13th 2021. Today is January 3rd 2022 and I am beyond in my studies.

The final section of masechet Taanit compares the ritual laws of mourning a lost loved one with the laws of the Tisha b’av fast, in which we mourn the lost Holy Temple.

Why do we mourn the Temple’s absence? How can we feel genuine sadness over the loss of a building that last existed some 2000 years ago?

Time heals all wounds, the saying goes, and this is especially true for mourning. When we lose somebody close to us it’s like a sharp pain, and it remains inflamed for some time before it starts cooling off. In time, it devolves into a dull ache that surfaces at times but is mostly dormant. The more time that passes, the less pain.

The Temple, though, is not a person whose legacy depends on their deeds and children. And it’s much more than a building that erodes over time and eventually fades into dust. Rather, the Temple represents an idea beyond time and space. This idea is God on Earth.

Being the One true God Who encompasses all — “There is nothing besides Him” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) — God is both beyond Earth and Earth itself. To allow this phenomenon, God’s reality and essence are hidden from this world.

So what’s in it for us, why God and why the Temple?

We understand ‘good’ as being God Himself. The greatest good there is — the greatest blessing we can receive — is God Himself (Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan).

In contrast to human conflation of good and evil, God is inviolate, indivisible, and true. That which opposes this truth is false. Truth versus false is akin to 1 versus 0 — black and white. Much easier to reason about, but the problem is we humans get stuck at all those grey numbers in between, deciding for ourselves what is ‘good’ versus ‘evil.’

How do we attach ourselves to God — His Truth — and receive His goodness?

In the spiritual realm closeness is accomplished by resemblance. We as physical humans can’t come close to a spiritual God, but we as humans created in God’s image can approximate His ways, and in so doing our spiritual core shines through the physical.

How are we to follow God’s ways and make His will our will?

One should follow the attributes of the Holy One, Blessed be He…clothe the naked…visit the sick…console mourners…bury the dead.’ (Sotah 14a)

How do we learn more about Him so we can better follow His ways?

The more He reveals of Himself the more we may know Him. When the Holy Temple is built God’s Presence dwells among us in a greater level of revelation. Consequently, His goodness is showered upon the world.

It is this reality which we crave to reclaim and mourn having lost: God Himself.

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Zachary DuBow

wannabe Torah scholar, amateur stock market investor, junior web developer