Excerpted From Living Beyond Time by Rabbi Pinchas Stolper - Artscoll
The wedding ceremony concludes with the singing of the phrase, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget how to function." Then a glass is broken by the groom as a symbolic gesture of grief, so that even at their happiest moment, the newly married couple recalls the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. This is in keeping with the next verse, "Let my tongue stick to my palate if I remember you not, if I set not Jerusalem above my greatest joy." Synagogues around the world are built facing Jerusalem. Why is there so much emphasis on remembering Jerusalem in our lives?
To the world at large, the history of Jerusalem opens with its conquest by King David. For the Jew, Jerusalem is the place where man was created. Jerusalem is the city of King Malkizedek, the city in which Abraham, Isaac and Jacob worshiped, the city chosen by God to radiate direction and spiritually to all mankind. Jerusalem is the gateway through which all of mankind's prayers rise to heaven. Jerusalem is the place where the Shechinah, the very presence of God, is felt more intensely than anywhere else on earth.
To what degree do today's Jews actually mourn for the destroyed Jerusalem Temple? Our lives are so rich, both physically and spiritually. We are so content with our families, our homes, our businesses, our pleasures and our prosperity as to make the destruction of the Holy Temple 2,000 years ago somewhat remote and of limited concern. Few people truly mourn for the Temple. Even fewer truly feel the absence of the Shechinah, the Divine Presence. For the rest of us, it is hard to imagine what would be added to the world were the Divine presence to be felt when the Beit Hamikdash is rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The essence of our lives should be an effort to live in the presence of God -- knowing that He is here with us, that He is present in our lives, is the true source of our joy and satisfaction. The moment we no longer feel God's presence, the moment we feel that He is displeased with us, everything turns black. We are experiencing the effects of the Churban, destruction of the Temple. Contrary to popular thought, when we lament the Churban, we do not mourn the absence of an imposing building; Churban is the absence of God's presence.
The challenge to the Jew who lives in exile, in the absence of the Beit Hamikdash, is to create God's Temple within his own being. The purpose of the Beit Hamikdash was to inspire each individual to become a miniature Beit Hamikdash. We mourn for the Beit Hamikdash to acknowledge that we yearn for God's presence to return to our midst.