Jewish mourning on Tish’ah B’av is not only for the terrible military and political defeats traditionally ascribed to that day, but also for the loss of the palpable sense of Divine presence that the Temple generated.
The destruction of Jerusalem and Second Temple is the single most important event in Jewish history (aside from the Exodus and giving of the Torah, if we want to call those “historical” events). The Roman destruction of Jerusalem greatly contributed to the dispersion and of the Jewish people around the world, the decentralization of the Jewish ritual and halakhic (legal) traditions, and to a general spiritual disposition of longing and alienation. Pre-70CE Jerusalem and the Temple, which embodied the blend of a pure concept of priestly ritual and Rabbinic teaching) have come to represent an idyllic Jewish environment only to be matched by the messianic era, which has yet to come.
In truth, Rabbinic Judaism, which developed, flourished, and created the non-biblical Judaism that we practice today, was actually sparked from the embers of the Temple ruins. That is to say the destruction had some unanticipated positive consequences, many of which include common practices of Temple and ancient Jerusalem remembrance, such as: 1) central prayers, e.g., the Amidah and Birkat Ha-Mazon; 2) declaring, L’Shanah Haba’ah b’Yerushalayim – “Next year in Jerusalem” at the end of both the Yom Kippur service and the Passover seder; 3) facing toward Jerusalem during prayer; and 4) minor fasts and the holiday of Tisha B’Av itself (literally, The 9th of Av), the saddest day of the Jewish year, during which we fast and read the Scroll of Lamentations.
To argue that the establishment of the State of the Israel in 1948 supersedes or disqualifies the remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple would in some way put into question the entirety of the Jewish religion as post Second Temple spiritual tradition, which it is.
Given that there is no way to go back to a pre-70CE Judaism (nor would most of choose to do so), we can ask instead: How does the establishment of the State of Israel have an impact upon our narrative since the destruction of the Temple? What is our spiritual disposition today? Should we eliminate or amend some of rituals of remembrance and longing for the ideal of Jerusalem that we once possessed? What is the theological dimension of the establishment of the State of Israel how is that reflected in our practices?
Conservative Judaism holds two simultaneous positions on such questions and they primarily have practical import on Tisha B’Av and minor fast days – no one is suggesting eliminating blessings for the rebuilding of Jerusalem or cutting our L’Shanah Haba’ah b’Yerushalayim. One is that the establishment of the State of Israel is cause for celebration and, therefore, keeping the full account of mourning rites on Tisha B’Av and other minor fasts would slight the significance of the Jewish nation that exists. Adherents would suggest ending the fast early and eliminating other acts of self-denial, but not the reading of Lamentations. The second position maintains that all of the traditional mourning observances should be upheld. That is, although the State of Israel is a homeland for Jews, it has yet to become truly secure, to know lasting peace, or to fulfill the messianic promise of which the longing and mourning over Jerusalem and Temple are inherently connected.
When someone asks the question “Should WE…?” it always makes me wonder who the WE is? And, when it comes to memorializing the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the WE really matters.