As we sat on the cool, smooth, white Jerusalem stone facing the direction of the Kotel, listening to the chanting of the book of Lamentations, our eyes could see the result of the Prophet Jeremiah’s woes.
It was possible that we could even be sitting in the same area that Jeremiah did when he composed his laments, and we see the result of the destruction. We can see the golden dome peeking up from the Temple Mount, where HaShem’s House once proudly stood, and we know that redemption is still far off.
We sat there as a nation. We sat there as a family, mourning the loss of our home. We ended the recitation of Lamentations with Psalm 137: “If I forget you Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill!” How could we forget? We sit here, day after day, praying for the redemption, praying for Jerusalem to be rebuilt beyond its former splendor and glory.
We mourned, but our mourning was not as intense as it could have been. Redemption is distant, but it is drawing near. As Jews, we can walk into our ancient city; we can go near to our ancient wall, we can see the Temple Mount, even if we can not easily access it. We can see that the situation has changed since Jeremiah’s day. Whereas Jeremiah recounts that “the city that was great with people has become like a widow,” and that “she sits in solitude,” today Jerusalem is bustling with Jews from all four corners of the earth, and people from every nation are coming to see her, visit her, and bless her. The redemption, little by little, baby step by baby step, nears.
The first chapter of Lamentations speaks of Israel being pursued by the nations, the Gentiles who were once her friends became her enemies, contributing to her destruction. On the day of Tisha B’Av, at the Bram Center, we were honored to host a group of fifty Gentile volunteers who come to Israel to help harvest the produce of the land, to help Israel grow agriculturally, financially, and spiritually. As I and some of our other staff members were teaching on the destructions of the First and Second Temples, speaking about the exile and the subsequent return, the nations coming and ransacking the Temple and the Holy City, we were struck by the fact that these Messianic Gentile volunteers before us had come to do the exact opposite. They came to build; they came to restore. Instead of razing foundations, they harvest the land, sowing and reaping rich fruit. Instead of making the land desolate, they want to make it luscious and prosperous.
The redemption yet nears.
We are slowly but surely seeing Jeremiah’s laments turn into rejoicing. The city that once sat in solitude can almost hardly contain her citizens and her visitors. We hear rejoicing in the streets, children are no longer being boiled and devoured by their mothers as Jeremiah recounted in his day, but they run and rejoice in the streets as well. We stop our rejoicing for one day, we sit and mourn and remember the destruction our sins brought upon us, but then we arise and continue our rejoicing in the land of our forefathers. Redemption inches closer to us.
However, we are still a ways away from the full redemption. Jeremiah’s cry still lays increasingly heavily on our hearts: “Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers; our houses to foreigners.” One House remains in ruins—our heartbeat has still not returned to our bodies. The Temple is still absent, and in its place stands the house of foreigners—as beautiful and as opulent as the structure itself may be—our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, and it remains so. The Temple is gone, and the Messiah has no throne to which he may return and rule.
We mourn the distance of the redemption, and yet we see it slowly approaching from the distance. The nations fill the streets, and they are coming in droves to gather at HaShem’s footstool, his holy city of Jerusalem. Redemption is gradually nearing, and we greatly anticipate its full arrival.