The following story is told of the great French leader, Napoleon Bonaparte. He once was traveling through a small Jewish town in Europe. He entered a synagogue. There he saw an incredible sight. Men and women weeping. They were sitting on the floor on small stools holding candles while reading from books. The synagogue had an elaborate chandelier but only a few candles were lit. If not for the small candle lights the magnificent synagogue would have been in complete darkness. It was a gloomy and sad sight to behold.
Napoleon asked why the people were weeping and wanted to know what misfortune had happened here. An enlightened Jewish French officer told him that nothing new and terrible had happened. The Jewish people had a custom to gather once a year on a day called the ninth day of Av, the day that marks the destruction of the Jewish people’s Temple. Twice they built a magnificent Temple in Jerusalem and both were destroyed. After their second Temple was destroyed the people were scattered all over the world and sold as slaves. Some escaped and built their homes world over. Somehow the Jewish people exist without their country and their Temple.
In order to commemorate these sad events they gather once a year in synagogue. There they fast, pray, and read sad prophetic writings concerning the destruction of their Temple and land. What we see in this town is happening in all Jewish communities.
Napoleon inquired as to how many years have they been doing this and was over 2000 years. Upon hearing this Napoleon exclaimed, “A nation that cries and fasts for over 2,000 years for their land and Temple will surely be rewarded with their Temple.”
By Rabbi Eli Hecht on chabadsb.org