The Temple. It was always referred to a beis ha-mikdash. As a Rabbi, I know my role is to mourn, to commemorate and to remind my congregants of what we lost on Tisha B’Av, and all that we have to gain upon the beis hamikdash being rebuilt. But should we yearn for its reconstruction and do the majority of orthodox Jews really understand what that would entail? Even when I was younger, I really wanted to feel the loss but could not. After high school, when I was in Yeshiva in Israel, every Shabbos afternoon I would forego the afternoon nap and walk to the Kotel for Mincha and then study mishnayos related to beis ha-mikdash or the karbonos. I would do this every week without fail. Eventually, I even went to a Yeshiva to study Seder Kodshim. Around Yom Kippur time, I would review the avodah section of the mussaf teffilah, both the Ashkenaz and Seferad versions so I could fully appreciate the Yom Kippur service. But, when Tisha be-Av came around I could never feel truly sad about the loss of the beis ha-mikdah. I would hear stories about great rabbis who would cry over the loss of the beis ha-mikdash but never witnessed any. No matter how hard I tried, I never felt a sense of loss.
In thinking about beis ha-mikdash the question that we must ask is do any of us really want a return of the beis ha-mikdash? Do we really want to return to a time where we offer sacrifices. Think about it. You may be ok with a mincha offering of flour but do you want to kill a cow and offer it up on an alter? Would that be fulfilling? Do you want to have special classes of people, so that if you are a non-kohen you don’t sit in the same section as the kohen and levi? Forget high holiday seats, you aren’t even allowed in the same section as your friend Reuven the kohen. (See Dovbear‘s similar observation.)
Would standing around all day on Yom Kippur watching (more likely you wouldn’t see anything, and, at least according to chazal, at most you saw only a small part of the avodah), the kohen perform his duties really be satisfying? There would be no singing of piyyutim, so throw out all of your favorites and substitute sending a goat out to the wilderness and throwing it off a cliff and killing the another goat and sprinkling its blood. Then the kohen goes back to a room that no one can see all the while you are standing about, hoping and praying that the Kohen does the job correctly, all participation and autonomy stripped away and sequestered behind a wall of exclusion.
Some will say, “well the Rambam in Moreh, indicates that sacrifices will be abolished in the messianic era.” True, but our teffilos don’t seem to reflect that. We daven daily for the reinstitution of the sacrifices. Regarding the Rambam himself, his position in Yad is that karbonos will remain a central component of the service even in the messianic era. I know that there have been attempts to reconcile the two, but, again, in reality, our everyday actions, the teffilos indicate we think sacrifices will return.
Perhaps this is why most rush through the avodah section on Yom Kippur, they really don’t want that, they want the songs and the participation. I want those as well. The songs, the community all together, not seperated by kohen, levi or yisrael, all sitting together, singing, that is what makes davening, davening. But karbonos? Do we anticipate their return? How many comments have accused me of being dishonest, but are we really honest with ourselves about the beis ha-mikdash and karbonos?
The above understanding is reflected in my own speeches on Tisha be-Av. Rather than focus exclusively on the beis ha-mikdash, I focus on loss more generally. On persecution and perspective, overcoming and being overwhelmed. I speak about moral improvement, improving our interpersonal relationships, and on finding our own inner service that can connect us. Those are ideas and actions that will allow for us to become the type of people and nation we have always aspired to be—the kind of nation that world has always expected us to be—not by throwing a goat off a cliff.