This Tish'a B'Av, I
will be offering a Sunday Tisha B'Av text study from 10:00 - 11:30 on the issues
discussed below as prepared by The New Israel Fund and the Jewish Theological
Center, as well as information on recent achievements of civil society
organizations working to address these challenges. Please join me to
explore what's happening in Israel now and why we need to care as Americans and
When we look up into the sky these past few summer
evenings, we may have noticed the beautiful young moon, the moon of Av. Despite the moon's loveliness, Av (Father, in
Hebrew) carries with it a heaviness of heart, as this coming Sunday, the ninth
of Av, known as Tisha B'Av, is the day that weighs heaviest of all.
Tisha B'Av is a time of remembering the destruction of
our Temple in Jerusalem as well as numerous other wounds inflicted.
According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6), five specific events occurred on Tisha B'Av, the ninth of Av:
- The twelve spies sent by Moses to observe the land of Canaan returned from their mission. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, brought a positive report, while others spoke disparagingly about the land. The majority report caused the Children of Israel to cry, panic, and despair of ever entering the "Promised Land" (see Numbers Ch. 13 - 14).
- The First Temple built by King Solomon and the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE (3175).
- The Second Temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah was destroyed by the Romans in August 70 CE (3830), scattering the people of Judea and commencing the Jewish exile from the Holy Land.
- The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba's revolt and destroyed the city of Betar, killing over 100,000 Jews, on July 8, 132 CE (Av 9, 3892)
- Following the Bar Kokhba revolt, Roman commander Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Temple and the surrounding area in 133 CE.
Other calamities associated with
- The First
Crusade officially commenced on August 15, 1096 (Av 9, 4856), killing
10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in
France and the Rhineland.
- Jews were expelled from England on July 25, 1290 (Av 9, 5050)
- Jews were expelled from Spain on July 31, 1492 (Av 8-9, 5252)
August 1, 1914 (Av 9, 5674), World War I broke out, causing
unprecedented devastation across Europ and set the stage for World War
II and the Holocaust.
- On the eve of Tisha B'Av 5702 (July 23, 1942), the mass deportation of Jews began from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.
Unlike the month of Adar when our happiness increases
(with the holiday of Purim), the month of Av tells us to lessen our joy. It is
a custom during Tisha B'Av to fast, to refrain from non-essentials, such as are
the laws and customes on Yom Kippur, and to spend time reflecting on what may
have been at the root of this historically tragic day.
What is a traditional perspective on this day of bad
The Talmud in (Yoma 9) reveals that the primary focus of
Tisha B'Av, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem occurred from within,
due to our own sinat chinam, "baseless hatred of others." In other
words, our own negativity weakened our defenses. The Talmud (Gittin 56) gives
one example of the sinat chinum that
occurred during that time.
man had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy named Bar Kamtza. He made a party
and asked his servant to invite Kamtza, his friend, to the party. However, the
servent made a mistake and invited Bar Kamtza, his enemy to the party. When the
host saw Bar Kamtza at his party, he asked angrily, "What are you doing
here? Get out!"
Kamtza replied, "Since I am here, let me stay and I will pay for whatever
I eat." The host refused the offer. Bar Kamtza even offered to pay for the
entire party. The host still refused and grabbed Bar Kamtza by the hand and
threw him out. Bar Kamtza taught the
Romans how to force the Jewish priests to disrespect a Roman offering, thus
enraging the Romans and leading to the war.
For over two thousand years, the Temple in Jerusalem has
not been in use, only the outer Western Wall, the Kotel, remains as a sacred
remnant of what had been. While the
destruction happened to us, a Jewish perspective also looks at what weakness might
have allowed our vulnerability. For
healing, the mystics ask each person to look at their own sinas chinum, places of baseless hatred which tend to weaken our
Does sinat chinamaffect you and me?
frankly, yes. We carry grudges. We give up. We cut off ties without trying to hear.
We often take our bat and go elsewhere when interpersonal relationships present
an opportunity to grow. And these places of coarseness cumulatively harm our
Tish'a B'Av has taken on multiple associations, both what was done to our
people and what we may have done to ourselves, at the heart of the day still
lie Jerusalem and the Temple, or today, the Kotel.
years, the Kotel has been the focus of conflicts around Jewish pluralism,
religious unity, and the role of women in public Jewish life, a conflict which
extends to Jerusalem and more broadly to Israeli
delighted if any of you can meet as well this Sunday. Please let me know at email@example.com.
Even if this
observance is entirely new to you, consider making it meaningful by learning
more about it. If you possibly can, give up a non-essential pleasure from
Saturday night until darkness on Sunday, or participate in the traditional fast.
Reflect on areas in your own life where baseless hatred rears its ugly head,
and take note where some tikkun, some healing can move in. Be there for the
rejoice in seeing us all standing as one and turning the mourning of Tisha B'Av
Once again, hoping you'll join in study and
reflection this Sunday at 10:00 A.M.