Recently I was driving through a checkpoint at a United States military base. I did not see any guard, so I proceeded slowly forward. Suddenly there was a loud bang on the rear window. A military policeman stepped out of the shadows and started yelling. He wasn’t interested in hearing that I hadn’t seen him.
My wife commented, there is no such word as “I am sorry” in their language.
That is not the way which the Ruler of the Universe has taught His Nation.
Every weekday we say three times, “S’lach lanu … Forgive us, our Father, for we have erred; pardon us, our King for we have willfully sinned, for You pardon and forgive.” (Shemoneh Esreh) In Tachanun we say, “Oh compassionate and gracious One, I have sinned before You. Hashem, Who is full of mercy, have mercy on me and accept my supplications.”
And Hashem listens! How do we know? Because Am Yisroel is alive today!
We are not only able to admit we are wrong, but we depend upon this admission for our very existence. A Jew knows that the road to survival passes through the “field of forgiveness.”
On Shabbos afternoon, we say, “[Hashem] leads me on paths of righteousness … though I pass through the valley overshadowed by death.” (Psalm 23) There is a huge resistance to acceptance of guilt. Our ego tells us not to go that way, because the ego has to die, so to speak. But if we hold Hashem’s hand, so to speak, we will get through.
It has always amazed me that that the broken Tablets are among the contents of the Holy Ark in the Temple (see Bava Basra 14a/b). Why are these reminders of our rebellion and national embarrassment in the most holy place, the center of the world, the Place to which we all turn in prayer?
In fact, I believe the answer is clear. The very act of teshuva – trying to fix ourselves so that we may come home to our Father and King – is based on our willingness to acknowledge our errors, our rebellions, our iniquities. The uniqueness of a Jew is that we are willing to accept responsibility and humble ourselves in order to come close to Him.
Who was closer to Hashem than Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses)? “Now the man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth!” (Numbers 12:3)
Our rabbis state, “Who is destined for a share in the World to Come? One who is modest and humble, who enters bowing and leaves bowing, who learns Torah constantly but doesn’t take credit for himself.” (Sanhedrin 8b)
My friends, as we sit on the floor on the Ninth Day of the Month of Av, weeping for our lost Bais Hamikdosh (Holy Temple) and our lost innocence, may Hashem accept our tears, have mercy on us and bring us home in unity and love! We are weeping for our lives, our survival. May He return to us our Bais Hamikdosh. May the entire world hear and understand: “Ki mi tzion taitzae Torah … From Tzion the Torah will come forth and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim.” (Isaiah 2:3)
This picture, taken from across the Kosel Plaza, shows the floor where the
Bais Hamikdosh stood (to the left of the mosque) and will soon B”H stand again.