December 30, 2006

When the Tests are Miracles

The Talmud relates that after the destruction of our Holy Temple, Rabbi Akiva and the Sages of Israel were walking on the streets of Jerusalem. As they came to the Temple Mount, they beheld a devastating sight. There, where the Sanctuary had once stood in majesty and splendor, where the Holy of Holies had been, were only ruins, and wild foxes were roaming about.

The Sages broke down and wept.

"Woe is us," they wailed, "that we have seen this with our own eyes."

But Rabbi Akiva did not weep. Instead, he smiled.

"How can you smile at such a time?" his colleagues asked, shocked.

"I smile," Rabbi Akiva answered, "because today I have seen the fulfillment of prophecy, for the same prophet who foretold the destruction also foretold that the Temple shall be rebuilt. The same prophet who prophesied our exile, also prophesied that we shall return to Jerusalem in joy. And so I smile, for now that the first part of our prophecy has come to pass, the second part will surely come to be."

"Akiva," the Sages declared, "you have comforted us."

From When the Tests are Miracles