3 Negative Weeks

Between the Temples

Kabbalah teaches that the Future Temple is a hidden beginning that has yet to be revealed.

from the teachings of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (Ramchal)

Now I will explain to you why the Future Temple will be different from the First and Second. This is no empty matter. Pay careful attention and make every effort to follow. There are certain important points that you must understand first.

Two roots of creation

The word 'bereishit' thus indicates two beginnings….

It is written: "In the beginning [in Hebrew, "bereishit"], G‑d created the heavens and the earth". (Gen. 1:1) The Sages commented that the letter beit [the second letter of the alef-beit] in the word bereishit also has the connotation of "two", this being the numerical value of the letter beit. The word "bereishit" thus indicates two beginnings. You must grasp this great fundamental in order to understand things clearly and know the meaning of the idea of the rectification [tikun] of the world.

When the Creator blessed-be-He decided to create this world, He set the lights in their proper places and the guards at their posts, arranging all the different orders of Creation in His Wisdom [chochma]. This chochma was exalted above all His other works, and upon this chochma everything depends. This chochma is signified by the yud of His glorious, awesome Name.

But above chochma is found another beginning [keter], which is wholly concealed: "Deep, deep, who can find it?"(Ecclesiastes 7:24) This is what gives chochma its power and strength. Because of its intense holiness, this higher beginning is totally hidden within chochma and completely invisible from outside. When all the ministers and officers who receive from the King see that they all receive from chochma, they say, "Surely this is the beginning [in Hebrew, 'reishit'] of everything, this is the source that never ceases." For this reason chochma is called "the beginning".

Everything brought about by chochma derives from this higher beginning….

But included within chochma is this other, higher "beginning" [keter]. There is no separation between the two. Everything brought about by chochma derives from this higher beginning, and it is from here that chochma receives its orders. There is nothing in the world that chochma brings about that does not derive from this other beginning, signified by the cusp of the yud. You will find that the cusp is never separated from the yud nor the yud from the cusp. Thus all things have a beginning, and, in addition, there is the beginning of the beginning. This is the concept of the two beginnings (beit [the letter] + reishit) of which I spoke above.

When…keter is revealed in all its power and glory, all the lights will come to a far greater, higher level….

Why did Scripture use an expression that bears two meanings? The reason is that since the day the world was created until the present time the world has not attained perfection. Everything depends on man's deeds. Had man not sinned, the universe would have come to perfection. Because of his sin, it was not perfected. So far the Creation has only come to the level of rectification corresponding to chochma. But there is a far greater, higher level that is still to be attained. For when the hidden beginning (keter) is revealed in all its power and glory, all the lights will come to a far greater, higher level, after which there will be no more decline.

The lights have not yet attained this level, but in times to come they will indeed attain it. And then abundant good will come into the world, peace and tranquility will reign everywhere, and sadness and sighing will be banished. Of those days it is said: "On that day, G‑d will be one and His Name one." (Zacharia 14:9)

If I were to expand on this matter, it would lead into very extensive discussions that would take me way beyond the bounds of my subject. It is humanly impossible to grasp every single detail to the very end. Accordingly, I will not stray far from the path. I will simply set before you a number of introductory explanations. Examine them carefully and you will gain an understanding of hidden secrets that are sealed up and reserved for the remnants whom G‑d calls, secrets that serve as the garb of the Ancient One (cf. Isaiah 23:18 as explained in Pesachim 118a).

The First Temple: Chochma

What you must know is that until now all the lights and all the levels have been based only on chochma, whereas in the future the concealed beginning [keter] will be revealed and all things will ascend to the greatest, most precious levels.

Know too that the sin of Adam spoiled everything and caused all perfection to become concealed, with the result that the world was not even able to return to its previous state [i.e. the level of chochma] except in the days of Solomon, when the Temple was first built. Thus it is written, "And G‑d gave chochma to Solomon". (I Kings 5:26) For then chochma was revealed in all its beauty and radiant glory, enabling all the lights to shine with great strength and joy. In those days, on every level in all the worlds there was only holy power and delight the like of which had never been seen. Even so, because everything was based only on chochma and did not reach the ultimate goal [of keter], this peace and tranquility came to an end and the Temple was destroyed.

The Future Temple

But in times to come, when the hidden beginning I mentioned [keter] is revealed, the happiness will be far, far greater, and it will never cease. All things emanate from their source. Likewise, all the rules governing the lights and their functioning, whether in motion or at rest, follow their source. Any change in the source from which the lights receive affects the whole world. For this reason, in times to come the world will undergo many changes, and the Holy Temple will certainly be different since this is the place from which life is channeled to all the creatures in all the worlds.

When the boundaries of chochma are surpassed, the world will enter a new state of joy….

The First Temple, then, corresponds to chochma, the chochma that was given to Solomon and with which he built the Temple, as I have explained, while the Future Temple corresponds to the hidden beginning [keter] that has yet to be revealed.

Nevertheless, there is certainly nothing new under the sun. All the changes and developments that have taken place and continue to take place every single day for the six thousand years of Creation were decreed at the very outset. Even so, in times to come, when the boundaries of chochma are surpassed, the world will enter a new state of joy. This is a great fundamental, though I will not discuss it at length now. Let me just say briefly that, initially, G‑d made all things the way they are now on the basis of chochma alone, yet they contain within them the power to be ordered according to the supreme beginning [keter]. And when this beginning is revealed, everything will be drawn after it through the original power already planted within them at the outset. The entire creation will then be renewed as if it was born at that moment. That is why Isaiah spoke of: "The new heavens and the new earth" (Isaiah 66:22).

The Third Temple Above

The Temple above never ceased to exist, even though the Temple below was destroyed….

And now I will reveal a very great secret, so apply your intelligence resolutely in order to descend to the depths of the matter. Know that this future Temple is the one that Ezekiel the Prophet saw immediately after the destruction of the First Temple. You have already heard that the Temple above never ceased to exist, even though the Temple below was destroyed. For the Temple in This World could only be built through the great power of the lights [the sefirot] which radiated from level to level until they reached this world, producing the Temple. In the absence of this power the Temple could not remain in this world. But this did not mean that the Heavenly Temple had to be destroyed. It simple became darkened and did not shine as at first.

However, those familiar with the paths of wisdom know a great secret: had those who lived when Solomon built the First Temple not fallen into sin but held firm to the path of purity, they would have ascended from level to level until everything was perfected. The world would then simply have changed directly from one state to another, and what was to have been revealed would have been revealed.

But the influence of evil and the proliferation of sinners caused the destruction of the First Temple that was built according to the initial design. When this happened, the Heavenly Temple no longer stood in its original form. In a single moment it disappeared and was rebuilt in a different form and structure: that of the Future Temple. One building disappeared and the other appeared without so much as a hairsbreadth between them. However the new structure was not revealed in the lower world. Only in the future will it be revealed. But in the Upper World, from that day on, so it was and so it is.

That is why Ezekiel saw it, for it was already built and standing. Had the Jewish People only been worthy, the redemption in the time of Ezra should have been like the redemption from Egypt, and their entry into the Land should have been like Joshua's entry. Then they would have built the Temple according to the plan seen by Ezekiel, and the two Temples, above and below, would have been perfectly aligned.

The Shechinah in the First and Second Temples

Since the people failed to improve their ways, the redemption in the time of Ezra was a quiet affair and they did not have the strength to build the Temple according to the plan of the future Temple. On the instructions of the prophets among them they built it partly like the First Temple and partly like the future Temple which already existed above. But the time was not ripe for them to build it entirely like the future Temple.

Thus in the time of Solomon the two Temples - in this world and the higher world - were in perfect alignment, and accordingly the Shechinah found a resting-place and dwelled in the earthly Temple. But the Second Temple was not similar to the Heavenly Temple and the Shechinah did not dwell in it.

The Shechinah in the Future Temple

However, in times to come, not only will the two Temples be similar, but the Upper House will extend until it reaches the Lower World. This is the meaning of the saying of our Rabbis that the Third Temple will be the work of the hands of G‑d. For the Heavenly Temple will not be uprooted from its place. Rather, it will extend until it reaches the lower world, and then around it will be built a physical structure at fitting in this material world, and the two structures will be joined and become one and will never again separate. G‑d's glory will be fully revealed there, as it is written, "And the glory of G‑d will be revealed, and all flesh will see". (Isaiah 40:5) Then there will be complete peace and happiness forever.

There is an allusion to this secret in the verse: "…the Sanctuary, Ado-nai, that Your hands established [in Hebrew, 'konenu']". (Ex. 15:17) The beauty of the limbs and ornaments of the Shechinah is revealed according to the way she receives. When the light of this beginning will shine, the glory of Her crown [keter] will be greatly exalted. Thus the Sanctuary will be built on the foundation of keter, and the numerical value of the letters of the word "konenu" [spelled kaf, nun, nun, vav = 126] is equivalent to the sum of [the rebua value of the divine name Ado-nai cited in the verse:] alef plus alef-dalet plus alef-dalet-nun plus alef-dalet-nun-yud, which shines in this crown [keter].

All these matters are very deep and far more rooted in wisdom than might appear.

Translated by Avraham Greenbaum in Secrets of the Future Temple from Mishkeney Elyon; published by the Temple Institute and Azamra Institute from the teachings of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (Ramchal)

2 Tabernacles for 2 Realities

The sanctuary on earth is opposite G‑d's sanctuary in Heaven

from Torat Moshe by Rabbi Moshe Alshich of Tzfat-Safed

The three-week long mourning period from the 17th of the month of Tammuz through the 9th of Av is primarily to commemorate the events surrounding the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. While it is difficult for many in this modern age to relate, the Alshich helps us understand our great loss.

"They will make a sanctuary for me." (Ex. 25:8)

The message is mind boggling! Who can imagine that G‑d's Presence can be contained on earth, much less in a man-made structure! When Solomon beheld that the presence of G‑d filled the Temple he had built, he was awed. He realized that this was only possible because the site of Mount Moriah had been the gateway to Heaven since Creation. Our sages express this by stating that the sanctuary on earth is opposite G‑d's sanctuary in Heaven. For that reason Adam and Noah offered their sacrifices at that site, and so did Abraham and Jacob.

When Israel erected the Tabernacle, G‑d told the angels to erect a celestial counterpart…

When Solomon, at the dedication (Kings I:8) said, "I have built a residence", repeating the word "I have built" ("bana baniti"), he indicated that what he had accomplished here on earth, had had its effects in Heaven - that he had in effect built two temples. The celestial temple is situated in a region called "Zevul". This is what is known as "the place of Your eternal residence".

All of David's efforts to locate the exact site for the Temple had had this as their objective. (Samuel II 24:18)

A similar concept, of man's actions being matched in celestial spheres, is expressed in the Midrash. (Bamidbar Rabba 12:12) We are told there that when Israel erected the Tabernacle, G‑d told the angels to erect a celestial counterpart. That sanctuary is called the "Tabernacle of the youth Meta‑tron"; there the souls of the righteous would be offered during the period Israel is in exile, as atonement for the Jewish nation.

This is why the Torah describes the erection of the tabernacle as "et hamishkan", the word "et" signifying something additional, i.e. the celestial counterpart. Just as there is a senior temple in the celestial spheres as described in the Song of the Sea, i.e. "…the Sanctuary, my G‑d, that Your hands established" (Ex. 15:17) so there is also a junior such residence in the celestial spheres, albeit in a lower layer of heaven, called the "Rakiya".

This junior temple functions when there is no temple down here due to our sins. This is why the Midrash calls it the "Tabernacle of the Youth", i.e. the junior temple.

The author quotes many proofs from Scripture supporting the idea that when man does things for the glory of G‑d (provided he is in a state of grace) man's actions have their counterpart in celestial regions. What G‑d told Israel in this portion is that even after the grave sin of the Golden Calf, once rehabilitated by penitence, the freedom which man has been equipped with enables him to draw the holiness of G‑d down to earth.

Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk from Torat Moshe by Rabbi Moshe Alshich of Tzfat-Safed

Destruction of Body and Soul

The Temple and its Destruction are matters of the soul

By Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz; adapted from Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Eliyahu Munk

Parashat Devarim is always read in the three weeks of mourning culminating in the fast of the Ninth of Av; its content is most appropriate at that time.

The reason we have lost the Temple and have been sent into exile is that we were guilty of violating those Torah laws designed to perfect our soul, body and financial dealings. Our sages have said that during the period of the First Temple, Israel sinned by worshipping idols, engaging in sexual licentiousness and committing murder. (Jerusalem Talmud Yoma 1:1)

The sin of worshipping idols is essentially one of the soul…

Ever since the destruction of the First Temple, the damage done by committing these sins has not been repaired, not even when the Second Temple was built. This is why five important manifestations of G‑d's presence [proof of the high spiritual level of the Jewish people] were missing during all the years that the Second Temple functioned. Our sages found this alluded to in the defective spelling of the word "I will be glorified" in Haggai: "Go up to the mountain, get timber and rebuild the House; then I will look on it with favor and I will be glorified [in Hebrew, 'v'echbedah'] - thus said the Lord." (1:8) The missing letter hei was the prophet's way of telling Israel that the Second Temple would be inferior to the first in five respects. (Yoma 21)

The sin of worshipping idols is essentially one of the soul; the very thought that there are other deities besides G‑d is prohibited.

Sexual licentiousness is, of course, a sin committed by the body. There is no other sin that involves as many limbs and organs simultaneously as engaging in sexual intercourse.

Murder also involves all parts of the body; all the organs and limbs of the victim are rendered useless. Jerusalem had been described as "filled with blood". (Isaiah 1:15)

That same generation had also been guilty of unfair dealings in monetary matters, as described in the verse: "Your rulers are rogues and cronies of thieves; all of them greedy for bribes." (Isaiah 1:23)

The making of vows, or failure to honor them, also involves one's soul. The immediate cause of Nebuchadnezzar's attack on Jerusalem was King's Zedekiah's having broken his solemn oath to the former not to rebel against his rule. (II Kings 25:1) This is why the elders of Zion are reported as having put dust on their heads and having lowered their heads to the ground ;(Lamentations 2:10); Eicha Rabba (2:14) relates that the members of the Jewish Supreme Court at the time of King Zedekiah were executed as punishment for violation of the vows. According to the Midrash, the oath of loyalty had been taken on the Golden Altar, i.e. in the Sanctuary.

Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk from Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz; adapted from Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Eliyahu Munk

Black Eggs & White Cheese: The Secret of Jewish Resilience

The 60 philosophers of Athens took out 2 eggs; the solitary Jewish sage took out 2 pieces of cheese—and he won the debate.

By Yosef Y. Jacobson

A fascinating and cryptic Talmudic story takes us on a journey into the heart of the Jewish struggle for identity and survival some 1900 years ago, teaches us about the essence of "The Three Weeks," and conveys the secret of resilience and endurance in times of crisis and destruction.

The Rabbi and the Greeks

The Talmud (Bechorot 8b) recounts a fascinating confrontation that occurred between the Wise Men of Athens and the great sage of Israel, Rabbi Yehoshua son of Chananya, which took place during the first century CE, only a few years after the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans in the year 68 CE.

Athens was known in the ancient world as the seat of wisdom and philosophy...

Athens was known in the ancient world as the seat of wisdom and philosophy, and its sages saw themselves as the deepest and wisest thinkers of the time. Amongst the sages of Israel, Rabbi Yehoshua stood out as the sharpest and most quick witted, able to best anyone in an argument.

The impoverished Rabbi Joshua was a fearsome debater and a brilliant scholar, though to earn a livelihood he would sell charcoal. He was a Levite who played music back in the Second Temple (the Levites would perform a daily morning concerto in the Temple) and witnessed the destruction. In the following decades, one of the worst moments in all of our history, Rabbi Joshua served as the most prominent spokesman for Judaism and the Jewish people.

So when the Roman Caesar demanded to test who was wiser, the Jews or the Greeks, Rabbi Yehoshua was the clear choice to represent the Torah of Israel.

Sixty sages of Athens challenged the Jewish sage and the battle of wits began. The Talmud records the back and forth between these sages, that took the form of a cryptic exchange of riddles. The Athenian sages would throw a challenge in front of Rabbi Yehoshua, and Rabbi Yehoshua would come back with an answer each time, usually in the form of a counter-question. The exchange went like this:

The sages of Athens asked: ‘If a chick dies while in the egg, before the egg is hatched [and it is sealed from all sides], from where does its soul escape?’ Rabbi Yehoshua’s response: ‘The soul escapes through the same place it entered [into the sealed egg].’

They asked him, "When salt gets spoilt, what do we use to preserve it?" His response: "We use the afterbirth of a mule." "Do mules have afterbirth?" they asked. [A mule cannot give birth.] "Does salt spoil?" he retorted.

What do these bizarre questions really mean...?

Each one of these exchanges – and there were many of them — begs explanation. What do these bizarre questions really mean, and what lies behind the sharp answers? What wisdom is being displayed here? Here is one more, equally strange.

The Sages of Athens showed Rabbi Yehoshua two eggs, and asked him, "Which of these eggs came from a white hen and which from a black hen?"

In response Rabbi Yehoshua presented before them two pieces of cheese and asked, "Which of these cheeses is from the milk of a white goat, and which from the milk of a black goat?"

This response silenced the Athenians. They were defeated. But why? What were they asking, and how were they answered? They came with eggs, he responded with cheese. What’s going on here? Are they showing each other their lunch, as in the hoary Jewish joke about Yankel and the Pope?

* Yankel vs. the Pope

Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy. After a huge outcry from the Jewish community, the Pope offered a deal. He would have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they would have to convert or leave.

...it was agreed that it would be a 'silent' debate.

The Jewish people met and tried to pick a representative, but no one volunteered. Finally, Yankel, the janitor of the shul, an elderly simpleton, said, "If no one else will do it, I will." However, as the janitor spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, it was agreed that it would be a 'silent' debate.

On the chosen day the Pope and Yankel the janitor sat opposite each other. The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Yankel looked back and raised one finger. Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head. Yankel pointed to the ground where he sat.

Looking desperate, the Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. Yankel pulled out an apple.

With that the Pope stood up and declared that he was beaten, and that the janitor was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy.

Later the Cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened? The Pope said, 'First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me there is still only one G‑d common to both our beliefs.

‘Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that G‑d was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that G‑d was also right here with us.

‘Finally, I pulled out the wine and water, to show that G‑d absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin.

‘He had beaten me at every move and I could not continue.’

'I haven't a clue' said Yankel.

Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask Yankel the janitor how he had won. 'I haven't a clue' said Yankel.

‘First he said to me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger. Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews, so I said to him that we were staying right here.’

'And then what?' someone asked. 'Who knows?' said Yankel. 'He took out his lunch so I took out mine.'

Explanation of eggs and cheese

The various Talmudic commentaries all agree that the conversations between the Rabbi and the Greeks were allegorical. They were discussing lofty issues of the spirit, the meaning of life and death, G‑d’s role in the universe, human destiny, the meaning of existence. They spoke in symbolic terms, the language of wise men, and their words are not to be taken literally. This discussion was not about eggs and cheese.

So what were they talking about?

Two sets of 21 days

The great 16th century Polish Talmudist, Rabbi Shmuel Eidels, known as the Maharsha, interpreted this enigmatic exchange in a profoundly moving and original way. The Greeks were communicating, in a rather sophisticated way, one of the key ideas in Greek philosophy. They were also making a dire prediction. They were warning of the imminent extinction of the Jewish people. Israel was about to disappear. And they could prove it.

Here is how the Maharsha explains it:

It takes 21 days for a hen egg to hatch. For three weeks, the mother hen sits on her eggs to keep them warm (she sits lightly on them, so as not to squash them, and she covers the eggs with her thick fluffy feathers and wings), until the chicks hatch from the eggs and nothing remains but an outer shell. The "life-span" of an egg is three weeks (unless the egg is taken from the hen to be eaten.)

The two eggs...represented two 21 day periods in the Jewish calendar.

This was the metaphor of the two eggs in our narrative. The two eggs that the Sages of Athens presented before Rabbi Yehoshua represented two 21-day periods in the Jewish calendar.

Firstly, there are the 21 days between 17th Tammuz and 9th Av, the annual three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. This time period — in which we find ourselves right now — commemorates sadness and tragedy. It starts on the day that the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the enemy, and ends on the day that the Temple was burned to the ground. These 21 days are represented metaphorically by an egg that was laid by a black hen – a three week period which brought darkness and gloom to the Jewish people.

But there is another "egg" in the Jewish calendar, another three week period on the Jewish calendar: the very first 21 days of the Jewish year, beginning on Rosh Hashanah and culminating with Hashanah Raba. These are festive and purifying "white" days. On Rosh Hashanah our souls are renewed and made fresh, on Yom Kippur we are cleansed and whitened from our sins, receiving atonement for each and every sin. On Sukkot we dance and celebrate, and on Hashanah Raba we rejoice with the final judgment for a year of blessing and good. This 21 day period is like the egg laid by a white and pure hen, a time of purification, whiteness, cleansing and positivity.

These are the two eggs, from the white hen and from the black hen. With this imagery, the Greek sages presented Rabbi Yehoshua with a grim proposition. You can’t tell the difference between the two eggs. The egg that was laid by the black hen is identical to the egg laid by the white hen. So too, your days of celebration and purification have been equaled by your days of mourning and blackness. Your 21 days of joy have thus been neutralized by the 21 days of mourning. Darkness is akin to light; despair is as powerful as hope; gloom is an equal to happiness. The world is essentially a random, hopeless, meaningless arena, where fortune and misfortune share an equal chance of victory. Evil is as powerful and potent as good. Your times of light do not even get one additional day over your period of darkness.

What is more, the Greeks were intimating, this egg experiment demonstrated that there is no hope for Israel.

In times gone by, the Jewish people could claim that they had a special place in G‑d’s eyes, for G‑d granted them three weeks in the year to be elevated and purified. But now, in the aftermath of the Temple’s destruction, that special relationship has been eclipsed, for 21 days of pain and sadness have come to cancel out the 21 days of celebration and joy. The egg from the black hen looks the same as the egg from the white hen. G‑d’s love of the Jews is a thing of the past. Darkness has fallen over Israel. The Jewish moment is over.

This was the challenge the Athenian sages lay before Rabbi Yehoshua. And indeed they had a point. From the looks of things, the grand majestic history of the Jewish people was coming to an end. The nation that left Egypt with miracles and wonders, received the Torah from the hand of G‑d Himself, settled the Promised Land to create a kingdom of priests, and built the Temple as a home for G‑d on earth, this once extraordinary nation was now beaten and exiled, their land conquered by a foreign invader, their religion outlawed and their Temple reduced to a disgraced pile of rubble. Millions of their people were massacred. Any observer would predict that the end was near. The era of the white hen, the 21 days when G‑d finds favor with the Jewish people, seemed to have been pushed aside by a new era, the era of the black hen. The sun had set on Israel, and the darkness was descending all too fast.

Two Goats of Whiteness

But the Athenians were wrong. And Rabbi Yehoshua showed them why. He took out two pieces of cheese, one from a black goat, the other from a white goat. They too were indistinguishable. With this he taught them something that even Greek wisdom could not fathom: the Jewish message of hope after tragedy; rebirth after destruction. Where the Greeks saw an egg coming from a black hen, Rabbi Yehoshua saw cheese curdled from a black goat. Even from the black goat white cheese was born.

The two goats alluded to the goats that were used in the Temple on Yom Kippur, just several decades before this debate took place. The Torah (Leviticus 16) commands us to bring two identical goats on the holiest day of the Jewish year. One of them is brought as an offering to G‑d, its blood sprinkled in the Holy of Holies and on the sacred altar; the other goat is cast off a cliff in the desert, a symbolic casting away of negative energy and sin.

(The famous term "scapegoat" is taken from this biblical instruction to select a goat that would "carry" away the sins of Israel. The word "scapegoat" has come to mean a person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the crimes or sufferings of others, often as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.)

The other goat...represents the darker side of this relationship...

These two goats are opposites. One goat is an expression of the deep bond between G‑d and His people, an offering of repentance brought on His holy altar on the holiest day. The other goat, cast away to the wilderness, represents the darker side of this relationship, the fact that humans have the capacity to betray their loved ones, their soul, their G‑d, themselves, and need to rid themselves of the negative energy created through betrayal and evil. Metaphorically speaking, one goat is white and the other black. One goat represents our "whiteness," our ability to enter into the holy of holies; the other goat embodies the darker side of our personality, which can take us to the abyss.

And yet, white cheese comes from both!

While a white goat and black goat look very different, the cheese that they produce is indistinguishable. The source may be different, but the end product is the same. The darker side of our life, the sins we commit, the mistakes we make, the "downers" we experience, are not fun or pure. But their ultimate objective is to allow us to reach a depth in our relationship with G‑d which we could not appreciate without these mistakes. Even a black goat is capable of producing pure white cheese.

Here Rabbi Yehoshua revealed one of the great ideas which gave the Jews strength for thousands of years. Just as the cheese from black goats is as white as the cheese from white goats, and you can’t distinguish between the two, so too, the pain and suffering that the Jewish people witnessed at the destruction of the Temple during the black three weeks was not random and meaningless; it was not a demonstration that evil is as potent as good and that the sun has set on the people of the Divine book. No! No, beneath the pain there was a streak of whiteness; at the core of the "black hole" there was infinite light. Even the black goats of life are there to produce white cheese; even the hardships we face are there to help us get where we need to be.

We have all seen it, in or own lives and in the lives of those around us. The illness that brings us a deeper perspective in life, the relationship breakdown that allows us to find true love and humility, the passing of a loved one that gives us new appreciation of our short time in this world and the spirituality of life. What Rabbi Yehoshua understood, what the Jewish soul understands, is that there are two forms of light – light that appears as light, and light that appears as darkness. The good times are good. The tough times are there for us to make them good. "Problems are only opportunities with thorns."

Sure, we would rather not have to go through the tough times. We don’t seek out suffering, even if it will make us stronger. We would rather learn the lessons and gain the inspiration we need through pleasant and comfortable means, not through pain. It would be wonderful if all eggs could be born from white hens. But the reality of life is that we all have our share of challenges, difficulties and trials. And as long as that is the case, the Jewish response to life’s challenges is to make them a springboard for positive change.

The Light of Redemption

Destruction is a step toward rebuilding...

It is during this time of year, the three weeks of mourning for the Temple, that we focus on this powerful idea. Destruction is a step toward rebuilding, and failure is a chance to regroup and get our strength back. We all go through black times, we all get knocked over and we all fall. But "failure is not falling down, it is staying down." As Jews we know that we must get back up, shake off the dust and keep on laying eggs.

The Three Weeks, from a Jewish perspective, are like the Black Hole in modern physics, which is filled with endless light, but does not allow it to escape its pull. (A black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that nothing, including light, can escape its pull.) Our job is to penetrate the black hole and reveal its inner light, the light of Moshiach.

Excerpted and adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from //theyeshiva.net By Yosef Y. Jacobson