By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
In mournful remembrance of the destruction of the Temple, it is customary to leave part of a wall in one’s home conspicuously unfinished: unplastered, unpainted, unpaneled, etc. An unfinished area of one square “cubit” is prescribed (OH 560:1… a cubit is generally calculated as between 18 and 22 inches). Some provide such a one-square-cubit area painted black. These memorials are referred to as “Zecher L’Churban” – “In Memory of the Destruction.”
While synagogues and religious schools do not technically require a Zecher L’Churban, I have certainly seen the practice observed in such institutions.
Zecher L’Churban does not merely recall the historic and spiritual losses of Tisha B’Av on a daily basis… it reminds us to guard against the various moral failings which, the Sages speculated, led to the Temple’s destruction and the downfall of Jerusalem. Such sins include baseless hatred (Yoma 9A-B), a flawed judicial system (Baba Metzia 30B), neglect of Shabbat and laxity in educational standards (Shabbat 119B), shameless and licentious behavior (Eichah Rabbah 22), etc.
This Tisha B’Av and every day… the moral inventory inherent in the practice of Zecher L’Churban properly evokes the increasingly urgent insight of Ehud Olmert, Mayor of Jerusalem and then Prime Minister of Israel:
“Promoting tolerance and human dignity is one of mankind’s unfinished challenges.”
Let’s all remember that.
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)