So We Fixed It? A Child's Thoughts After Tisha B'Av
It may not be burning anymore but it still isn’t fixed.
It’s the morning after Tisha B’Av and I am sitting in the kitchen making lists, a shaft of sunlight dancing on the surface of the table. It’s a relief that the long, hard fast is over and we can get back to normal living. Today I will do loads and loads of laundry while listening to music. I’ll prepare my children’s bathing suits for camp and schedule haircuts for everyone. I reach for my favorite mug and pinch a piece off the chocolate chip muffin sitting in front of me. Today I will go shopping and to the dry cleaners. I will make a meat-lover’s barbecue! It’s been a long three weeks and we need to get back on track.
I’m interrupted by my three-year old-daughter, staring suspiciously at my muffin. We have spent these past weeks explaining to her all the things we can’t do during this period of mourning and just when she finally got it, it’s over.
“You is allowed to eat and drink now?” she asks me, carefully.
“Yup,” I answer, taking a deep sip of my coffee. I really need to get back to my list-making so I’m trying to keep this conversation short.
“Also, Daddy can eat?”
“Uh huh,” I nod. Her eyes light up, in fact her whole face brightens.
“So, we fixed it?” she asks.
“Fixed what?” I say, distracted.
“The Bais Hamikdash (The Holy Temple)! Remember? It was burning yesterday. That’s why we was sad, right?”
“Right,” I say slowly. I push my lists away and look at her now.
“But now, we fixed it!” she grins at me.
“Well…” I say, “not really.”
“It’s still in the fire?” Her blue eyes are big and worried. She knows fire is bad, very bad and very scary.
“No,” I say and I rub her little hand, “it’s not burning anymore, but it isn’t fixed either.”
“So, when are we going to fix it?”
“We’re trying to, sweetie,” I say, “but it’s not so easy. We have to build it up again.”
“So, we build it. With bricks! We could do it today!”
I sigh. It seems so sensible when she puts it that way.
“Well, it’s not like that, Laila. We can’t just build it with bricks like a regular building. We have to build it by doing mitzvot and good deeds, remember?”
“I am doing mitzvot!” she insists. She raises the fingers of her little white hand, glitter nail polish sparkling and counts off one by one. “I cleaned my room, I was quiet when you was sleeping, I shared my toys with Sara, I made a bracha on my ices. I am doing mitzvot!”
“Yes,” I agree, “you certainly are.”
“So why isn’t it fixed yet?”
“Because we have to wait until God wants to build it,” I say, although I know that’s not much of an answer and raises more questions than it answers. It’s the best I can do on short notice.
Her little forehead furrows. “He doesn’t want to build it?”
“Well, He does, of course He does… but we didn’t do enough mitzvot yet.” I finish, lamely.
She thinks for a moment, processing my words.
“So, it’s not in the fire anymore,” she repeats, “but we didn’t do so much mitzvot and we still don’t have the Bais HaMikdash, right?”
“Right,” I nod.
She looks at me and then she looks at the muffin.
“So why are you eating and drinking?”