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HERE COMES THE BRIDE

by Benyamin Cohen    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

After a little hustle and bustle, all of the guests settled down and took their seats. David and Karen's wedding was finally about to begin. Months of preparation were about to culminate into the happiest day for the young couple.

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After a little hustle and bustle, all of the guests settled down and took their seats. David and Karen's wedding was finally about to begin. Months of preparation were about to culminate into the happiest day for the young couple. Rows of flowers lined the center aisle and adorned the windows of the main sanctuary. The afternoon sun shone brightly through the synagogue's skylight. The rabbi, regal and poised, stood just in front of the ark waiting patiently for the ceremony to begin.

A silent hush fell over the room. The orchestra began playing as David's nieces and nephews strutted down the aisle before him, cameras flashing from every direction. One by one, David's immediate family preceded him down the aisle, marching in perfect cadence to the rhythm of the music. Finally, it was David's turn. His father on one side and his mother on the other, David held their hands tight as a single tear began rolling down his cheek. This was the happiest moment of his life.

Jerusalem, 9 Av 70 C.E. - The Romans had taken control of the outer courtyard of the holy Temple. During the morning hours, the Jews tried unsuccessfully to ward off the Romans, only succeeding in scaring off a few soldiers. The Jewish faction, tired and weary, retreated in haste to the inner sanctums of the Temple and slammed the doors shut behind them. Their fate was sealed.

David arrived at the canopy and now Karen's family was making their way down the aisle. Karen's two younger sisters walked down before her, tossing rose petals onto the sanctuary floor. Karen, in all her glory, appeared at the entrance. The guests rose in unison as if they were welcoming a royal princess. Veil upon her face, parents on each side, Karen glided to the front of the room and took her place beside David under the wedding canopy. The guests sat back down, the music stopped playing, and the rabbi stepped forward.

By this time, the sun had set and the early evening hours had descended upon the Temple Mount. In the darkness, the Jews still huddled inside the inner sanctums of the Temple, praying to the Almighty in hopes of a miracle. Just outside, a fire had broken out. The Roman soldiers threw their torches over the innermost walls of the Temple, adding more vigor to the fire. The flames burst high into the air with a brilliant strength.

"We are gathered here today," began the rabbi, "to bear witness to the holy act of marriage." The rabbi went on to describe the sanctity brought about by the union of two people in marriage. He spoke of the tremendous kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d's name) for two such kind and generous individuals such as David and Karen to be wedded in soulful bliss. David removed the golden ring from his suit pocket. In the afternoon sunlight, the ring glistened with a celestial glow. Karen sniffled as she held back a tear. "Behold, you are consecrated to me by means of this ring, according to the ritual of Moses and Israel," David recited as he carefully slid the ring onto Karen's finger.

The blazing inferno continued, gaining strength as it consumed the wooden structure of the Temple. The Jews gathered around the altar, praying for their lives, praying for their holy sanctuary. The density of the smoke was unbearable and, one by one, the bodies of our Jewish brethren began piling on top of each other.

Karen's uncle, a rabbi of a small synagogue in Wilmington, ascended the stairs to the wedding canopy and read the ketubah (marriage document) aloud in his booming cantorial voice. A box of tissues was being passed around amongst the relatives, briefly stopping at each one before it was handed on. A smile broke across David and Karen's faces as each of the seven wedding blessings were recited. With each passing blessing, the glint in the young couple's eyes grew brighter.

The Romans began throwing spears and arrows over the Temple wall, randomly murdering the Jews still trapped inside.

As the wedding service came to a close, the rabbi placed a crystal glass on the floor beneath David's foot. For close to two thousand years, it has been a Jewish tradition to shatter a glass at the end of every wedding service to symbolize that despite this moment of sheer joy, our happiness will never be complete until our Temple is rebuilt.

If the smoke and endless array of shooting arrows hadn't already got to them, the remaining Jews were left to be slain by the Roman soldiers, while others were simply crushed in the nighttime panic.

David raised his foot up high and, with full force, stomped down on the glass, crushing it into dozens of tiny pieces.

A river of blood flowed across the cold stone floor of the Temple and slid down the eastern steps.

This Sunday is Tishah B'av, the anniversary of so many dark chapters in our history. The saddest events have occurred on this fateful day - both of our holy Temples were crushed to the ground; the fall of the fortress of Beitar, the subsequent fall of Bar Kochba and massacre of his men, and the ploughing up of Jerusalem by Hadrian in 135 C.E. Also, on this day in 1290, King Edward I signed an edict expelling all of the Jews from England. In 1492, 300,000 Jews began leaving Spain as was decreed by Ferdinand and Isabella. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) warns us of the perils of entering into a business contract or a court case during the month of Av, for this entire month is unlucky for the Jewish people.

What brought about such terrible destruction? According to our sages, one of the main impetuses for our downfall was our callousness with one particular character trait - that of sinat chinam, baseless hatred amongst the Jewish people. Imagine the magnitude and significance of this one character trait if it was the cause of such horrible disasters!

We observe Tishah B'av every year; how can we stop this unfortunate spiral that we were cast into? We are nearing the end of a three-week period of mourning in which we are supposed to examine our actions and bring our soul in for a spiritual dry cleaning. The key is to not stop there. Once Tisha B'av is over, if we can take those lessons and those improvements which we made and instill them into our daily routine, then we will be one step closer to eradicating baseless hatred amongst our fellow brethren. If we can only catch ourselves the next time we are about to spread gossip about another Jew or before we show disrespect for the feelings of others. If we do this, then we are surely on the road to the ultimate redemption when our holy Temple will finally be rebuilt. It is then that we will herald in the Mashiach (Messiah) and Hashem in all of His glory, like a bride walking down the aisle to meet her groom.

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Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan and alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is a junior at Georgia State University.

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