Today is Tisha b’Av, the Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 586 BCE and 70 CE. I should probably be in shul praying for the Temple to be restored speedily in our day. I’m not, of course. I can’t imagine a worse fate for Jews.
Never mind that the Temple Mount is now the site of the Muslim Dome of the Rock, and that knocking down the latter to rebuild the former would bring on World War IV (the Cold War was WWIII). Even if neither Armageddon nor the return of Jesus happened, rebuilding the Temple would force us Jews to once again slaughter animals to placate our God. I don’t look forward to the day when in order to be a good Jew I have travel to Jerusalem three times a year, buy some animals, and have a fella named Levine barbeque them for the Almighty. Sure, we all get to eat the leftovers, but still is this a religion of which I want to be a part? Spoilers: NO!
The destruction of the Temple was the best thing that ever happened to us. When it was destroyed in 586 BCE we responded by inventing Torah, ethical monotheism, and setting the foundations of a culture built on sacred story rather than sacred space. When it was destroyed in 70 CE we completed the reinvention of Judaism as a literary civilization and unleashed a flood of literary creativity that eventually gave us Mishnah, Gemara, Midrash Rabbah, Zohar, and created the unique Jewish mindset of argument, paradox, and doubt that I value so highly. If we had stayed a religious backwater of sacred barbeque we would have converted to Islam in the 7th century, if there would even have been an Islam.
So, while I bemoan the loss of life and sovereignty, I do not bemoan the loss of the Temple. On the contrary, for me Tisha b’Av is a testament to Jewish creativity and our capacity to reinvent ourselves so that we remain a living religion rather than a frozen one.