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Wy Do You Smile?

(continued from On The Roof)


Rabbi Gamaliel, R. Elazar Ben Azariah, R. Jehoshua, and R. Akiva were going to Jerusalem. When they arrived at Mount Scopus, they tore their garments; when they approached the Temple Mount and saw a fox running from where the Holy of Holies used to be, they began to weep; but R. Akiva smiled.


They asked R. Akiva, “Why do you smile?”

He replied: “The Bible states [Isaiah, 8.2]: ‘Witnesses, Uriyah the priest, and Zecharyahu…’ Why is Uriyah conjoined with Zecharyahu, was not the former at the first Temple and the latter at the second? It was because the passage bases the prophecy of Zecharyahu upon the prophecy of Uriyah. Uriyah said [Micha, 3.12]: ‘Therefore for your sake shall Zion be ploughed up as a field…’ Zechariah said [8.4]: ‘Again shall there sit old men and old women in the streets of Jerusalem…’ As long as the prophecy of Uriyah was not fulfilled I feared the prophecy of Zechariah will not come to be realized, but now since I see that Uriyah's prophecy is fulfilled I am sure that Zechariah's prophecy will also be fulfilled.”

Upon hearing this, they said: “Akiva, you have consoled us, you have consoled us!”

(Loosely translated from the conclusion of Talmud Tractate Makos).

It has been another week now and the child hasn’t left his perch on the roof. He still trembles from the booming thunder, and can feel the menacing gray clouds about to unleash another barrage. The confines have gone nowhere and destruction is everywhere. He can hear the enemy’s chant – and a fox runs where the Holy of Holies once stood.

He would love to tell of how a manufacturer in the south, who’s rival company in the north was forced to close its operations due to the falling rockets, extended the use of his factory to his competitor; of Ro’i Klein, a thirty-one year old commander who sacrificed his body on a grenade so that no one else would die; of people giving up their homes so that misplaced families would have somewhere to stay; of a silver lining in this bleak coal; of a slice of heaven in this jagged hell.

But how can he when he turns his head and sees a good man die?

The child stands on green grass, under a tree. He is surrounded by stones, people’s names engraved on them. It is the funeral of his friend’s father and the summer sun has the chutzpah to smile. The child can hear the women sob and tears flow everywhere, even down the sides of melting water bottles.

The saddest day in the Jewish calendar has come and gone, but the sadness has not. We sit on normal chairs and wear shoes of leather, but there are those who sit on the ground and where shoes of canvas. The Shabbat of Consolation has consoled us, but there are those still in need of consolation. The daughters of Jerusalem are dancing in the vineyards, but Jerusalem still has daughters who sit under the vines and weep.

The child sees the Rabbis weep. They weep not for themselves but for G-d’s humiliation – how can Divinity’s resting place, the Holy of Holies, the purest place on earth where no man can enter save for the High Priest on Yom Kippur, be defiled so?

And the child weeps. He weeps not for himself but for G-d’s humiliation – how can His children, imbued with His spark, created in His image, fade like yesterdays?

The child sees Rabbi Akiva smile. He smiles for he sees not pain but pleasure. He smiles for he sees not tears but laughter. He smiles for he sees not destruction but rebuilding. He smiles for he sees not exile but redemption.

The child tries to smile, but it’s so hard.


Email the author at: jakeyology@gmail.com
Or check out his blog: www.jakeyology.blogspot.com

Posted on August 9, 2006
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