There are twenty-one days on the Jewish calendar when we are expected to stir up our emotions over the loss of the Temple. Our Sages tell us: כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בשמחתה – Anyone who mourns over Jerusalem will be privileged to see her in her rejoicing. During the three weeks leading up to Tisha b'Av, we are expected to add emotion.
But is it really possible to care about a loss which occurred 1943 years ago, even if the loss was tremendous? The challenge is even more difficult in this age known as עקבתא דמשיחא – the era before the coming of Mashiach. Indeed, many of the identifying signs of this period, foreseen in the Talmud (Sanhedrin97a), are visible today before our very eyes! The name of this period, , עקבתא דמשיחא literally meaning "heel of the Messiah," hints at the difficulty we face mourning over the Temple. Metaphorically, Jewish history can be compared to the human body – from the head down to the heel. The head is represented by Moshe Rabeinu and the דור דעה , the "generation of knowledge" who received the Torah at Sinai. The story of our nation winds down to its culmination in our time, a period comparable to the heel of a foot עקב) ). The heel has a uniquely large amount of skin to cushion and support the whole body. It is also the place where there is a lot of dead skin. These features are reflected in our time when emotions and feelings for others are greatly diminished.
If the "caring days" are long gone, how can we be expected, so many years after the destruction of the Temple, to care and to cry over it? What if we just don't feel anything? Is there any technique we can learn in order to generate a little genuine sadness and real tears?
And why do we have to get all emotional about it? Would it not suffice to learn from our past mistakes and focus on fixing our national problems with dry cheeks?
The answer is that while we need to use our minds to mourn for the Temple and Jerusalem, that is not enough. Indeed, there are two words for tears in Hebrew: בכי and דמע . דמע has the same letters as מדע (intellect), because it is rooted in an intellectual understanding of a tragedy. In contrast, the other type of tear reflects an emotion triggered by the heart. It is called בכי and it has the numerical value of the word לב (heart). Thus, the Hebrew language itself teaches us that there are two paths to tears, and we are expected to use both of them, as it says in Eichah: עיני עיני ירדו מים – both my eyes shed tears. On the conceptual level, this means that tears flow from both sources.
The tears of the heart express feelings and emotions that words simply cannot. Any Holocaust survivor will tell you that all the Holocaust books and movies barely give you a glimpse of what it was really like. This is because some emotions cannot be contained by words. Many of us learned this first hand, when tragedy struck close to home. Our immediate response was not "How did it happen?" or "What could have been done to prevent it from happening?" Such questions are not asked by close relatives after suffering a tragic loss. They respond with the heart, not with the mind.
The two relationships where emotions run strongest are those of bride and groom, and mother and child. "Identity involvement" is very strong in these relationships. And the stronger the sense of identity, the stronger the sense of emotion. For this reason, the Prophets use these two metaphors frequently to describe the emotional pain that G-d "experienced" – as it were – due to the Destruction of the Temple and His people going into exile. For example, the Prophets speak of Zion as a mother waiting and longing for her long-lost children to finally come back home. If we do not feel this emotion, it is a sign that we do not properly identify ourselves as being one with our Nation.