A certain irony exists when we pray for the rebuilding Jerusalem. As part of our established daily prayers, we ask HaShem to rebuild Jerusalem without qualification. During Birkat HaMazon or Grace After Meals, we ask HaShem to rebuild Jerusalem in His mercy. Come Tisha B’Av during the Mincha service, we ask HaShem to rebuild Jerusalem out of reconsideration. Why the shift in our requests? Why do we qualify our request with either mercy or reconsideration?
Mercy or rachamim as it is known in Hebrew, is visceral. Mercy is a feeling. Mercy emanates from the heart. Mercy is an attempt to soothe the hurt and pain that one is experiencing. Oddly enough, the first usage of rachamim in the Torah, deals with a wishful or hopeful expression of concern. “And may Almighty G-d grant you mercy before the man… (Genesis 43:14)” says Jacob to his sons, after they returned from Egypt, only to discover that the money they had paid for the provisions they had purchased, turned up in their sacks of grain. Reconsidering, often used interchangeably with consoling or tanchumim as it is known in Hebrew, is cerebral. Reconsidering is a thought process. Reconsidering emanates from the mind. Reconsidering is an attempt to assure the one who is hurting and in pain, that all is not lost. Oddly enough, the first usage of tanchumim in the Torah, deals with HaShem. Seeing the evil and wickedness of mankind, “HaShem reconsidered having made man on earth (Genesis 6:6). Rather than throw in the towel and give up, HaShem reconsidered whether He did the right thing when He created mankind.
Mercy implies victimhood. Mercy conveys that you feel for the individual who is hurting. Mercy is an attempt to bandage the emotional wound visited upon the one who is grieving. Whether it is through sympathy, where one feels for the victim or through empathy, where one feels with the victim, the one experiencing hurt and pain is told that he or she does not have to weather the crises alone. The one experiencing hurt and pain is assured there are others who will be at his or her side, either in the literal sense or in the figurative sense. Reconsidering implies being in control. Reconsidering conveys a silver lining for the individual who is hurting. Reconsidering is an attempt to redirect the focus from the emotional wound and to redirect it to the many healthy areas outside that wound. Rather than assure the victim that you are very much aware that he or she is grieving, reconsidering reassures the individual, how important it is to realize that grief is a passing experience and that you are there to assist in planning for once the pain has passed. An example of this is seen each morning toward the beginning of the Shacharit service, where we are asked to reconsider that even though “In the evening, one lies down weeping, in the morning there are shouts of joy (Psalms 30:6)”.
Mercy implies a past. Mercy assures the one suffering, that you are not oblivious to the upheaval that has occurred in his or her life. Mercy is a reminder that while you cannot change what has happened, the crises need not be confronted alone. Among the many misnomers in our society, is the term self-help groups. Self-help groups are organized by individuals who have gone through similar experiences to meet with those who are hurting to help them deal with their past. Reconsidering on the other hand, implies a future. Reconsidering focuses on what will take place. Reconsidering assures the one suffering, that there is a promising future. Perhaps the greatest healing available to individuals at a time when they are all too quick to dismiss their future, is that you have confidence in them. Reconsidering assures those grieving, that their future must neither be disregarded nor overlooked. We live in a society where there is no shortage of investment clubs. The objective of such clubs is to secure a safe and strong financial future for its members. Reconsidering does much the same in helping to secure a safe and strong emotional future for those who are hurting.
And so it is with Tisha B’Av. Three times a day, we pray for the unqualified rebuilding of Jerusalem. Finding ourselves satiated at the conclusion of a meal, we find it difficult to identify with a city that continues to hunger for spiritual and religious completion. We therefore pray for the rebuilding of Jerusalem in mercy. Finding ourselves toward the close of Tisha B’Av, we can empathize with a city that has been deprived of (spiritual) nourishment. We therefore pray for HaShem to reconsider and to bring an end to the two-thousand-year-old plight of the holy city . Whether out of mercy or out of reconsideration or neither, we beseech HaShem to rebuild a city that means so much to so many.