I was recently listening to a shiur given by Rabbi J. J. Schachter asking what Tish’a Be’av means to us today given our difficulty in mourning for the Temple. He stated that with the foundation of the State of Israel and the seeming fulfilment of many of the prophecies about the messianic era, it has become very hard to mourn for what we lost. I was very bothered by this difficulty for a long time. Admittedly we still do not have a Temple, but in all honesty, how does that change my life? Then it occurred to me that this issue has already been addressed in a famous Chazal. The Gemara in Berachos 3a tells us about how Rabbi Yossi went into a ruin to daven. While he was in there he heard a voice cooing like a dove and sighing: “woe for the sons that for their sins I destroyed my house and I burnt my hall and I exiled them amongst the nations of the world.” Eliyahu appears and tells him that G-d says this regularly; G-d says these words three times each day. Furthermore, every time the Jews enter a synagogue and say the words “may His great name be blessed,” (words recited as a part of kadish) G-d nods His head and says: “praised be the king who is praised in such a fashion. What for the father who had to exile his sons? And woe unto the sons who were exiled from the table of their father.” This Gemara, for me, sums up nicely what is missing. Even when HKBH has given us so much, while the exile continues and there is still not a Temple, with all that comes with it, from the sacrifices to the Sanhedrin sitting in their rightful place, we can have a king, but we cannot have a father. We can still observe the halachah to the best of our abilities and be G-d fearing Jews, as well as live a good life. However, the sense of closeness, the deeply personal relationship is missing, Our father is very far and we can barely hear him. We can barely feel his presence. That is surely something to cry for.
First, we cry because we feel the distance in the lack of obvious miracles. For example, the yard of the Temple (the Azara) was never too small to hold the people within it. Similarly, the area of the Temple allocated for the slaughter and dissection of animals never smelled bad. Without obvious miracles we feel doubtful. Is G-d really there? Does he really care what we do?
The second factor which springs to mind is the Sanhedrin. Even if we were to reconstitute the Sanhedrin today in a genuine manner, they would not be sitting in their rightful place, in the Temple. As a result, they would not be able to function fully as a Sanhedrin. For example, we cannot pursue a capital case in the absence of the Sanhedrin in the Temple. Why is that? Presumably it is because even if we have a Sanhedrin, but they do not sit in the Temple, they are missing some element of divine inspiration which prevents them from adjudicating in the most serious cases. They are missing the (admittedly indirect) divine communication.
Tish’a Be’av is about much more than any earthy concern, even the building of the Temple. H’s about the relationship with G-d that we dait have. It’s about the relationship which we lost so long ago that we’ve forgotten what it ever was.