22 Shevat 5775 / February 11, 2015
MBY 561:1-5 Upon seeing Yerushalayim and the Mikdash in its destruction (abridged) (We quote heavily from Mishnah Torah: Hilchos Taanios, Moznaim Pub., Chapter 5:16-19, translated by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger)
16) When a person sees the cities of Judah in a state of destruction, he should recite (Isaiah 64:9): “Your holy cities have become like the desert,” and rend his garments. When one sees Yerushalayim in a state of destruction, he should recite (the continuation of that verse): “Zion is a desert…” When one sees the Temple (site) in a state of destruction, he should recite (Ibid.:10): “Our holy and beautiful House (has been burned by fire)” and rend his garments. From which point is one obligated to rend his garment? From Tzofim (Footnote #24: …a point from which one could see the Jerusalem of the Biblical and Talmudic eras. The location of the present city is slightly different.) Afterwards, when one reaches the Temple, he should rend them a second time. If he encountered the Temple first, because he came from the desert, he should rend his garments because of the Temple, and add to the tear because of Yerushalayim. (Footnotes #25-26: A parallel exists in the laws of mourning: If one’s parent dies, ch”v, after he has rent his garment over the passing of another relative, it is not sufficient merely to add slightly to the tear; he must rend the garment a second time. If one hears of the death of a relative other than a parent after he has rent a garment over the passing of another relative, all that is necessary is to add slightly to the tear. See Rambam Hilchos Eivel 8:10. Footnote #20: One of the most sensitive differences of opinion in the religious community in Eretz Yisrael at present revolves around this law. The Beis Yosef states that the obligation to rend one’s garments applies only when Eretz Yisrael is under gentile rule. The question is whether the establishment of a secular Jewish state is sufficient to have this obligation nullified or not.)
17) In all these situations, one must rend his garments with his hands and not with a utensil. (Ed. It is permissible to start the tear with a utensil in order to make it possible to continue tearing with one’s hands.) While standing, the person should rend all the garments he is wearing until he reveals his heart. He should never mend these tears at all. He may, however, have them stitched, hemmed, gathered closed or sewn with a ladder pattern.
18) The following rules apply when a person comes to Yerushalayim frequently in his travels: If he comes within thirty days of his last visit, he is not required to rend his garments. If he comes after thirty days, he is required. (Footnote #31: At present, rather than rend one’s garments every time one comes to Yerushalayim, it is customary to sell one’s garments to another person, so that it would be for bidden to tear them! [Ed. I have also learned of other methods of avoiding the obligation to tear kriah at the Kosel etc: 1) Borrow a garment, 2) Visit for the first time on Rosh Chodesh, Chol Hamoed etc, or even on Erev Shabbos or Yom Tov already dressed in Shabbos/YT clothing.]
19) All these commemorative fasts will be nullified in the Messianic era and, indeed ultimately, they will be transformed into holidays and days of rejoicing and celebration, as Zecharia states (8:19): “Thus says Hashem, Master of Legions: The fast of the fourth month (Ed. Starting from Nisan, that is Tamuz), the fast of the fifth (Av), the fast of the seventh (Tishrei) and the fast of the tenth (Teves) will be to the House of Judah for joy and for gladness and for happy festivals. Only love truth and peace!”
Commentary to Halacha 19: As mentioned previously, fasting is not an end in its own right, but a means to motivate the Jews to return to Hashem and correct the faults in their behavior. The coming of the Redemption will be a sign that the service of repentance is complete, and thus there will be no further need for fasting!
May we all merit true Repentance and Redemption!