What does being spiritual mean?
First we have to understand the opposite, being physical.
What drives people? For example, what makes people strive for wealth?
With wealth comes the potential to afford physical enjoyment that lack of wealth might prevent – eg travel, entertainment, luxuries etc
Simple maths – if I have x dollars, I can afford x things. Wealth puts me in a position where affording those things is within my ability and I can exercise that ability at will.
Is there a guarantee that if I work x number of hours or earn x amount I will be wealthy? No.
The Physical world is a reflection of the spiritual and the above phenomenon applies to being spiritual as well.
Hashem (God) created human beings, placing their souls in a physical body. The mission, should we decide to accept it, is to nurture the spiritual aspect of our existence, utilising the physical.
Human beings are created in the image of Hashem, meaning that we have the ability to transcend the spiritual levels of even angels and attain a likeness to Godliness beyond any other creature.
By striving for spiritual connection to and knowledge of Hashem, we have the potential to transcend physicality and live at the level of supernatural. This is a spiritual law and if addressed properly, is a guaranteed outcome.
This does not come easily and only the select few have maximised their earning capacity in spiritual levels in this world.
One such individual was Avraham (Abraham.) By applying all his heart and strength and time to being spiritual, Avraham transcended even the natural barrenness that he and Sarah faced, to have children at the age of 99 and 90 respectively.
His ultimate spiritual test was, after a life completely dedicated to spreading the name of a merciful and benevolent Creator and shunning all forms of cruelty and idolatry, to have to kill and offer his son Yitzchak up to H’, which he passed faultlessly, without actually doing the deed.
This act of Avraham, earned a level in spirituality, that his descendants were now predestined to live an existence outside of nature.
Skipping around 400 years, Avraham’s descendants the Jewish people are freed from Egypt in the greatest show of Supernatural since the creation.
They go on to live the supernatural existence of the splitting of the sea, revelation of Sinai, manna from heaven, clouds of glory to clear the way and protect them and water from the rock.
They come to Israel, a land unlike any other, which transcends nature and is the perfect place to live a supernatural existence for eternity. They are virtually invincible and at the level where they can walk in and conquer without lifting a finger.
They lower their spiritual level by sending spies, the spies descend right down into a natural level of worldly interaction, give a doomsday report, the people cry and as the Midrash says, H’ responded ...you cried a cry for nothing and I will fix for you a crying for generations, that night was Tisha B’Av (Taanis 29a.)
H’ doesn’t change – He built into Creation the ability for human beings to acquire or lose levels of spirituality – closeness to Him. Based on one's level of being spiritual, his/ her level of required exertion in the physical realm follows.
The Meraglims’ potential for transcending the physical and being spiritual after all they had experienced, was unprecedented. But, due to their lack of trust in Hashem they lost the level of invincibility and as a direct measure for measure reflecting this, became prone to laws of nature and the physical world, so that when they tried to go in naturally afterwards, they were defeated.
Tisha B’Av thus went from what spiritually should have been a Yom Tov to a day of unparalleled suffering.
On the first pasuk in Breishit, Rashi states a Midrash that at first Hashem planned to create the world with judgement and saw it wouldn’t survive so he partnered the trait of mercy with judgement.
A world only of judgement would mean one wrong deed5 and it is time up for the person. Now, Hashem has given a way of fulfilling the need for judgement through parallel means.
For example, if a person does something wrong, instead of physical suffering that such an act might require for repairing the spiritual damage, there is an alternative. Bringing a korban can completely heal the spiritual ill that a person’s actions or lack of action caused.
The mercy is that instead of offering up ourselves, we can offer up the next closest life form to ourselves, which is supposed to arouse us intellectually, emotionally and spiritually to feel as if it is actually ourselves being offered and bring us thus to a higher spiritual level.
The Beit Hamikdash was the means by which we could offer korbanos. It was the centre of our spiritual connection to Hashem and if utilised correctly, would have kept us on the level of Supernatural.
Because the Jewish people didn’t live up to their potential at the time, the negative power of Tisha B’Av gave our enemies the ability to destroy both Batei Mikdashot.
But even here is evident the partnership of mercy with judgement. Actually it was a merciful act that the anger of H’, meaning the descent of the Bnei Yisroel into the physical, was taken out on wood and stone instead of on us.
So, the world has 2 balance sheets, the spiritual balance sheet and reflecting that, the physical balance sheet. Korbanos were the ultimate tool for balancing the spiritual balance sheet but we still have very powerful tools at our disposal.
Tefilla (prayer) is called paros sefaseinu – literally, the cows of our lips. In other words, we can earn our spirituality through the power we invest in our tefillah. Torah, mitzvos (commandments) and acts of kindness achieve the same.
The destruction of the Beis Hamikdash is not a loss but a confiscation – the ideal is to do Tisha B’Av so well, that we restore the level to bring back the Beis Mamikdash and our level of being spiritual (supernatural) under the wings of the Shechina (Hashem’s Presence.)