17th of Tammuz and 9th of Av — the Three Weeks

A section for posting commentaries from any source, as well as personal comments, about the 17th of Tammuz, the 9th of Av, and the three weeks in between.

47 thoughts on “17th of Tammuz and 9th of Av — the Three Weeks

  1. Wendy

    From Rabbi James Stone Goodman
    Three Songs One Verse

    All of them are songs from Lamentations 2:19, but one starts with the
    beginning of the verse,
    the other picks up the sentiment at the zakeif (trope, pause), the
    third continues after the et-nach-ta (the resting place).

    The first part acknowledges the dark:

    Kumi Roni ba-lai-lah
    L’rosh ash-mu-rot

    Arise, sing in the night
    At the beginning of the watches,

    We sing the first song, the Breslov version
    In its entirety:

    Kumi Roni ba-lai-lah
    L’rosh ash-mu-rot

    The second part picks it up at the zakeif and begins with:

    Shif-khi kha-mayim li-beikh
    No-khach p’nei Hashem

    — Lamentations 2:19

    Pour out your heart like water
    Before the face of G-d

    We sing the Carlebach version.

    What’s the difference between the two versions?

    We begin by taking on the darkness:
    Arise, sing, split the darkness with your song.

    The second part moves directly into the heart of suffering:

    Pour out your heart, like water, before the face of G-d.

    There’s a third part:
    What if we pick up the song at the et-nach-ta [resting place]?

    S’i ei-lav ka-pa-yikh
    al-nefesh ‘o-la-la-yikh
    ha-a-tu-fim v’ra-av
    b’rosh kol-chu-tzot.

    Lift up your hands toward G-d
    For the soul of your young children
    That faint for hunger
    On the top of every street.

    It’s like the difference between Rav and Shmuel, in the famous
    argument in the Talmud:

    Rav said, all the ends have passed, and the matter [to save the
    world] depends only on repentance and good deeds.
    Shmuel said, it is enough for the mourner to stand in mourning.
    — BT Sanhedrin 97b

    How will the world be saved? Isn’t that what they were talking about?
    All of us?
    Maybe there was a dark question that preceded their argument. If all
    else fails, how will the world be saved?

    Through transformation, getting up, dusting ourselves off, splitting
    the darkness with our song [Rav],
    or right through the center, the heart of the matter, through the
    heart of sadness itself [Shmuel]?

    First we sing, push the darkness, then we pour out our hearts like
    water, our tears.
    With the second part of the verse, we go to the center with our
    tears, pour out our heart, singular, like water before G-d.

    In the third part, we lift up our hands to G-d, for the sake of our
    young children,
    we know the heart of suffering in the most vulnerable way.
    It’s not theoretical, it’s at the top of every street, around the
    corner, the call to action.

    We are the heart of suffering.

    We are also hope.

    Rabbi jsg, usa

    Reply
  2. Wendy

    From Reb Zalman

    Prayers for the Ninth of Av
    Dear Friends: The three weeks of mourning are coming and the 9th of Av. For the 9th of Av, we read Eicha and we add a paragraph to the Mincha Amidah Bonay Yerushalayim that tugs at our heart-strings and puts us in a mindset of a bygone era when Jerusalem lay in ruins and we were victimized. Reb Zalman offers an alternative to this paragraph you will find below in Hebrew and English and he explains:

    “Jerusalem is not the tragic heap of rubble strewn with corpses described in the Nachem prayer of the Minchah Amidah of Tishah b’av. I also do not think that it is yet the time to recite the Hallel that would befit the Mashiach’s birthday celebration.”

    He has found a middle place. Stay open to the possibility of common ground. Use this period as a time for inner work of repair and moving our world upward toward redemption, ken y’hi ratzon bimhera v’yameinu, amein. Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor.

    Comfort, Yah our God, those who mourn Your sacred House; those who feel their own losses and the lost lives of their loved ones; those who live in Jerusalem, promised to be the City of Peace, the beginning of the total redemption. Although the Holy City is now in the hands of Israel, there is fear of violent attack in the hearts of her inhabitants. While other nations have yet to consent to her integrity, we Jews have yet to learn to live in peace with each other, with our neighbors and with other religions and peoples who claim their share in her.

    Comfort us, Yah, Great God, awesome One, with that holy vision of the House of Prayer for all Peoples. Place into our hearts, feelings of respect and kinship of each people and creed for its counterpart. May we all become aware that we are Your creation and that Your Glory is exalted through diverse hymns which form harmonies to the Anthem of the Sabbath. May it be granted us that anyone entering the gates of the Holy City be fully comforted, doubly consoled!

    We praise You Yah, Who, while consoling Zion, builds Jerusalem! AMEN!

    “I vividly remember the Ninth of Av after Jerusalem was reunited (5727/1967). I was at an Orthodox synagogue. The Rabbi was a friend and colleague. After leading the congregation in the Ma’ariv / evening prayer, and after the reading of Eychah / Book of Lamentations, he announced he was now going home to celebrate with a festive dinner in honor of the shift that had taken place.

    “I felt that there was something strong and somehow right in this. Having been in Jerusalem when the city was still divided, I, too, felt that there was a reason to rejoice.

    “Since that time, I have again visited Jerusalem, the city which in Arabic is called Al Quds / the Holy One. It is not the tragic heap of rubble strewn with corpses described in the Nachem prayer of the Minchah Amidah of Tishah b’av.

    “It seemed so incongruous to recite that text which you can look up in any traditional Siddur. I also did not think that it was yet the time to recite the Hallel that would befit the Mashiach’s birthday celebration, so here is a version that seems right to me, and I invite you to share it with me on Tish’ah b’av.”

    Reply
  3. Wendy

    From Rabbi Jill Hammer

    The Jewish Book of Days

    Tisha b’AV

    A legend of Tisha b’AV tells that when the Temple was about to be destroyed, the keepers of the keys of the Temple, called “flowers of the priesthood,” gathered on the roof of the sacred shrine and threw the keys toward heaven rather than give them to the enemy. A hand stretched forth and took the keys, and so the Temple passed back into the realm of mystery. Its physical form could be destroyed, but its spiritual existence could never be erased. Today, as Jews fast, chant sad poems and songs, and recite the book of Lamentations, we remember the keys to our spiritual home, vanished into the sky.

    Tisha b’Av comes during the time of year when the gates of the skies are open and the winds of the south bring blessing. The ritual of returning the keys is a sign that receiving blessings can also mean letting them go. Even the Shekhinah
    must let go of the Temple when war ravages it and enter the wilderness. On Tisha b’Av we follow Her into the unknown, hoping She holds the keys to open new blessings to us.

    Cited: Isaiah 22:1 and Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 29a

    Reply
  4. Wendy

    From Hazzan Richard Kaplan

    This is a link to the place on the Neohasid
    website which features Hazzan Richard Kaplan singing his beautiful lament, Kinah Lekhurban. This was written for Tisha B’Av and is an eco-lament about the destrution of the earth. If you have not heard this, it is highly recommended.

    Reply
  5. Wendy

    From Reb Sholom Brodt and Reb Shlomo

    “mishenichnas Av m’ma-atin b’simcha”
    – As the month of Av arrives we reduce in those things that give us pleasure.
    Chassidim say “MISHENICHNAS AV M’MA-ATIN – B’SIMCHA.”
    – As the month of Av arrives we reduce the length of the galut exile with joy.
    [by serving Hashem with joy]

    the three weeks: seeing and hearing

    We are in the midst of the “beyn hameytzarim”, the ‘three weeks’ of mourning over the destruction of the First and the Second Beit Hamikdash. During this period of the ‘three weeks’ we do not make weddings and once the month of Av begins, we reduce pleasurable activities until the 10th of the month. We may not eat meat or drink wine during ‘the nine days’, except for Shabbos.

    The Talmud teaches us that anyone who does not merit seeing the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash in their days; it is as if it was destroyed in their days. This is not meant to depress us, for it surely will be rebuilt ‘bimheira b’yameinu’. Rather we hear in these words, a call and plea from Hashem that we keep on repairing, fixing and building, until Moshiach will come quickly in our days.

    The month of Tammuz, according to Sefer Yetzirah [an early Kabbalistic text] is associated with the tribe of Reuven and also with the faculty of vision. this is the month during which the spies had gone to scout the Land of Israel [see Numbers 13-14]. Sadly ten of the twelve spies did not look at the land with good eyes and did not see its potential. Consequently they returned and spoke ‘lashon ha-rah’ against the land that Hashem Had promised to our ancestors and we listened to it and cried over our lot. That night was the ninth of Av. The month of Av is associated with the tribe of Shimon and with the faculty of hearing and listening. [Reuven: re-u means see. Shimon: is based on the word ‘shma’, listen, hear.]

    From this we learn that these two months are propitious times to correct and improve our vision and our hearing. It is of utmost importance that we learn to see with good eyes, to see deeply within ourselves and to see inner essence of others. We must learn to listen to Hashem’s voice. We must learn to hear one another, to hear the cries of all the orphans and wounded, to hear the voice of the land; not to listen to lashon ha-rah: neither against an individual, nor against Israel, and certainly not against Hashem.

    L’kovod Shabbos Kodesh
    remembering the past remembering the future!
    The holy Reb Nachman of Breslov taught that memory was given to us to remember the future, to remember the beautiful ‘world to come’. One who is involved in building a house, especially the House of Hashem, must maintain his vision of it, what it will look like and the holy atmosphere that will pervade. We must remember that with each Mitzvah we are helping in the rebuilding of Hashem’s house and it b’ezrat Hashem it will soon be completed…. Amen.

    kol yisrael – All Of Israel
    In the Shabbos Amiddah prayer we read:
    Our G-d and G-d of our ancestors, may You be pleased with our rest. Sanctify us with Your commandments and grant us our share in Your Torah. Satiate us from Your goodness and cause us to rejoice with Your salvation and purify our heart to serve You with sincerity. Grant us Hashem our G-d, with love and desire Your holy Shabbos as our heritage, and may all of Israel, the sanctifiers of Your Name, rest in her. Blessed You are Hashem, Who sanctifies the Shabbos.

    I learned many times from my Rebbes and teachers that “all of Israel” – ‘kol Yisrael’ are the sanctifiers of Hashem’s Name. All of Israel! Even Jews who may not [yet] be practicing and observing the mitzvot are the sanctifiers of Hashem’s Name. After the Holocaust, when Jews were murdered just because they were Jews, every Jew is sanctifying Hashem’s Name just by being a Jew. It is amazing that even the Yidden who had lost their faith [for many this was only a temporary loss of faith] did not stop identifying themselves as Jews. This alone is a sanctification of Hashem’s Name. Every Jew, every one of us, must realize that we belong to ‘kol Yisrael’, ‘all of Israel’; let us not succumb to the forces of division. May we always stand united and let the world know that we are all together. We must not allow anyone to divide us. May we always look at one another with good eyes and see the positive and the potential. Rebbe Nachman zt”l taught that we must remember the future.
    true ahavas yisrael

    The Gemara says that the Second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because of ‘sinat chinam’, baseless hatred. Many great Rabbis have taught that in order to merit the building of the Third Beit Hamikdash, we must strive for ‘ahavat chinam’, baseless love, i.e., loving one another for no reason, just like we love ourselves for no reason. Our current ‘matzav’ makes it imperative we build bridges of communication and understanding amongst ourselves. When the Lubavitcher Rebbe ztz”l was alive he never stopped stressing the unity of ‘Am Yisrael’ and demanding that everyone of us ingest this truth and live by it with true Ahavas Yisrael. Reb Shlomo Carlebach ztz”l gave his life to Am Yisrael, as he attempted to bring all Jews together through joy and song.

    Let there be a window in your home where you can see Yerushalayim
    Ttranscript of Reb Shlomo’s teachings, from 2 tape/CD album called “Nachmu Nachmu”.
    you can order it on the web

    (singing) Yehi Shalom b’cheylech shalva b’armenotayich….
    let there be peace in your chamber … tranquility in your palaces

    Shalom Shalom Shalom
    peace in Yerushalayim peace in the holy city peace in the Holy Land
    let there be peace
    peace in every land peace on every street peace on every corner
    let there be peace
    just one more tear just one more prayer just one more song
    let there be peace
    just one more sunset just more night just one more dawn
    let there be peace
    Shalom…Shalom….
    just for my children just for your children just for G-d’s children
    let there be peace
    Shalom ….. Shalom …. Shalom …. Shalom

    give me harmony …. one Friday night
    one holy special exalted Friday night ‘in heiligen Shabbos’
    let there be peace……
    by the holy Radoshitzer by the Rebbe Reb Ber after the ‘table’
    he called his biggest chosid Reb Chaim Meirel
    and he took him to the window
    let there be peace

    and he said to him
    “look out of the window”
    and both were standing there looking out of the window
    and their tears were flowing
    tears from Yerushalayim until Mashiach is coming
    until they couldn’t bear it anymore……..
    let there be peace….

    the heilige Radoshitzer went back to his room
    and the chassidim said “Chaim Meirle what did the Rebbe show you?”

    and this is what he said:
    “ohr chadash al Tziyon tair v’nizkeh chulanu – let there be peace
    the new light! the great light !
    the light we are waiting for
    the one, which will shine in the Holy City
    this is what the Rebbe showed me tonight – let there be peace”

    “but why were you crying so much?” and this is what he said : “not only did he show me the light he also showed me all the tears
    he also showed me all the pain the holy people of Israel have to go through
    until there will be peace Shalom…..Shalom….Shalom Shalom…..Shalom….Shalom

    so my dearest most beautiful friends and all of Israel
    I bless you…….let there be one window in your little house
    I bless you with a window where you can see Yerushalayim
    whenever your children are crying or when you meet someone
    who is filled with pain take them to that window
    and show them the great light “ohr chadash al Tziyon tair
    and give them strength to hold out, not ever to give up
    until there will be peace
    Shalom…..Shalom….Shalom
    Shalom…..Shalom….Shalom

    Reply
  6. Wendy

    From Sharon Alexander

    Richard Kaplan’s posting of his haunting lament for Tisha B’Av reminded me that a song from my family’s new CD, “Blessings from our family to yours” that I recently posted on You Tube is also appropriate for Tisha B’Av. This 8-part round was taught to me many years ago by Reb Tirzah Firestone. I have taught it all over the world to Jewish Renewal communities and I am pleased to finally have a recording of it. The prayer is Mi ma’amakim: From out of the depths I call to you Yah, hear the voice of my supplication. To hear it, go to:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWaBvc3nkWk

    Blessings to all,
    Sharon Alexander

    Wendy’s comment: This is beautiful and haunting.

    Reply
  7. Aryae Post author

    Rabbi David Seidenberg

    Israel and Tisha B’Av
    Should we still observe Tish’a B’Av now that we “have” Israel?

    It’s not necessary to ask this question inside Orthodoxy, because people assume they should observe Tisha B’Av. But it may be equally important to ask within Orthodoxy, because observing the fast day without deepening its significance for this world and this time is also not enough.

    Tish’a B’Av is not about mourning, though there is much to mourn, but about becoming refugees. Tish’a B’Av is not primarily about the end of sacrifices or the Temple – Chaza”l, the rabbis, figured out how to live without the Temple long ago. Rather, it’s about homelessness, being thrown into a hostile world without shelter or protection, fleeing from war into famine—all things that are far too present in this world.

    It’s not even about sin, though Lamentations struggles with that idea. It’s about living in a world where military force and political power are used to destroy both the guilty and the innocent, without distinction. It’s also about confronting the ways in which we as individuals (and as a people) use our power and make others into refugees. On Tish’a B’Av, in a time when humanity is comrpomising the place we have on this planet, we need to ask ourselves: How do we treat homeless people? How will we leave enough space for all species on this earth? How can we respect this world as our home so that we don’t deprive the other species of their home?

    The customs of Tish’a B’Av reflect some of these nuances: fasting is not a mourning custom, and unlike Yom Kippur or mourning periods, Tish’a B’Av is the only day there’s permission to do things which cause oneself pain and discomfort (e.g. by sleeping on the floor or putting rocks in one’s shoes). It’s about experiencing the world as a refugee, as someone who has no food or bed, no place to wash, no change of clothes.

    Israel gives us a chance to look at these bigger issues instead of having to worry only about our own survival. The existence of Israel is hardly a reason to take Tish’a B’Av less seriously, though it may give us new issues to ponder from the perspective of having power. (For example, we may need to ask ourselves about people who are becoming refugees inside Israel, e.g.,How should Israel treat the Bedouin living in “unrecognized villages”? What’s happening to foreign workers, the poor, Ethiopian Jews? How can Israel respect human rights in the Territories while protecting its citizens?)

    Ultimately, until we live in a world where there are no refugees, and where Israel is truly at pece with her neighbors, we need Tish’a B’Av.

    Click here for everything related to Tisha B’Av on neohasid.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Reply
  8. Moshe Levin

    The way I’ve been formulating the Big Questions re: Tisha b’Av are:

    When T.B. comes, how does our Yiddishkeit reflect the time we are living in, as opposed to the period between the years 70 and 1948/1967?
    Is Tisha b’Av the same for us who can fly to TLV for $1400 round trip, as it was for those who prayed for the remote chance of their actually getting to the Land of Israel?
    Should our observance remain exactly the same as when it was formulated even though Jerusalem is now a bustling city under Jewish control?
    Are we not better off without a central shrine and what do we make of the worship at/of the Kotel, which may have been sparked by the centuries of observing Tisha b’Av?

    For most of the Orthodox, yes – the Mashiah hasn’t come yet and the Bet Hamikdahs is not rebuilt. So we’re still in mourning and the State of Israel is not the Third Jewish Commonwealth (See the “modern” Orthodox list of laws from Ohr Sameach – nothing is changed!
    http://ohr.edu/yhiy/article.php/1098

    And the Orthodox Union OU tries to make it relevant by bringing in the Holocaust, even tho we have a Yom Hashoah:
    http://www.ou.org/holidays/tishabav
    Their website says (note the word “eternal”):
    Kinot For Our Time
    The destruction of the Six Million is our stark connection to the eternal Tisha B’Av. Two great and inspiring spiritual leaders of our time, The Bobover Rebbe and Rav Shimon Schwab composed Kinot lamenting and memorializing the unspeakable tragedy. In recent years, many congregations have adopted the practice of reciting these Kinot on the evening or morning of Tisha B’Av.

    But for us? What is its relevance?
    Should we even still have Tisha b’Av?
    And why is this tragedy getting so much attention? Is it only because it is canonized in the calendar and ritual laws? Is that a good enough reason?

    Not for me. So I struggle. “Yisra’el”

    Reply
  9. Wendy

    From Rabbi SaraLeya Schley

    Yesterday was first day of the month of Av – Rosh Hodesh Av – and for the next 8 days we act as if we are in mourning. We might choose not to eat meat or drink wine (except on Shabbat) or cut our hair. The intensity will culminate next week with the reading of the Book of Lamentations during the fast day of Tisha b’Av (this year: evening 7/19, day 7/20) as we recall the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples in Jerusalem.

    The Baal Shem Tov taught us a deep spiritual lesson based on a few words found in Lamentations: “hisiguha bein hameitzarim – her pursuers overtook her in the narrow places.” (Lamentations 1: 3). During times of brokenness, negativity may be overwhelming and we often feel constricted. Our spiritual adversaries can overtake us during such vulnerable moments. We might feel distant from the Unity. “She” in this verse refers not only to Jerusalem and her inhabitants (and to us, too, metaphorically) – but also to the feminine Divine Presence, Shekhinah Herself. Shekhinah is also with us in the narrow places!

    When we are troubled and in pain, She may be even more attainable – easier to sense – than in times of ease. The Baal Shem Tov’s teaching continues, that, we then, through Her loving attention, notice the murmurings of t’shuvah in our hearts. Let us receive the blessing of Presence as we experience tightness and distress. Let us thus be inspired to the most profound returning, the most healing t’shuvah. This understanding is the spiritual work – avodah – of this season.

    Rabbi SaraLeya

    2 Av 5770 July 13, 2010

    Reply
  10. Wendy

    From Reb Miles Krassen/Moshe Aharon

    Taken from drash on Parsha Devarim

    The midrash teaches us that the 9th of Av is both the low point of the destruction of the Temple and the birthday of Mashiach—it marks both the collapse of the construction and focus of all that was sacred until now and, ironically, also discloses the early stages of the emerging consciousness of the new paradigm. From this perspective, we can see how 9th of Av is emblematic of paradigm shift, the limbic intermediate state in which neither the old nor the new paradigm can be completely relied upon. It teaches us incredibly deep, if painful, lessons, if only we can be open enough to receive them. An exemplar of paradigm shift itself, the 9th of Av prepares us, perhaps more than any other sacred time in the Jewish calendar, for the present situation in which all that we hold dear may be challenged, and may indeed collapse. To be sure, as the haftarah from Isaiah suggests, the systems that define the old paradigm should, in fact, collapse because they don’t work, are unsustainable, and have brought us to the brink of mutual destruction (Isaiah 1:1-27). And yet, just as our ability to have faith in the old systems and ways dissipates, if we bring prophetic vision to this unique moment and collective opportunity, we may discern precisely those elements that can lead us to the new paradigm, to which Isaiah alludes in his second chapter, “they shall transform the energy of contention into means for supporting life, nations will cooperate with each other and war will become unthinkable” (Isaiah 2:4-5). However, the 9th of Av teaches us that the radical transformation that occurs when paradigms shift is bitter-sweet. It does entail a tremendous amount of suffering just as it clears the way for the next evolutionary level. Thus, while we consciously step into the process of transformation, with its related tests and trials, we become dynamic components in the process of lifting and renewing the sparks.

    The lessons mentioned above are encoded in this week’s parashah in which Moshe begins his reflections on the entire history of his relationship to the Tribes of Israel, recognizing that neither he nor his contemporaries will survive the transition into the new paradigm. Not only does all the conditioning and assumptions that characterize the obsolescent construction of reality and meaning have to depart, but even the form of the guide has to give way to a new mode of what it means to lead as well as to be led. When we reflect on our history, we can easily see how the Moshe of the Pentateuch gave way to the Moshe of the rabbis, and, in turn, the Moshe of the rabbis was then superseded by the Moshe of the philosophers and kabbalists, who was renewed by the Ba’al Shem Tov, etc. This is but a model of how superior forms emerge through the “destruction” of transformation and evolution. But even that beloved construction, the “Moshe” renewed by the Ba’al Shem Tov, must be relinquished—freed in the form of transmutation—in order to make room to begin envisioning the Moshe of the emerging paradigm of the future.

    So, in our parashah , YHVH, the Spirit of All Life, brings Moshe to the Mountain of Telling the Future, where he says, “See from here how YHVH is setting out a new paradigm before you, go forward and don’t be too afraid and terrified by the paradigm that is collapsing all around you” (Deut. 1:21). And, although Moshe recognized that it was wise to look clearly and soberly into the future, most of the people were too terrified by what they would have to face and were only able to conceive of a “God” that had failed them. And what was Moshe’s answer? “Your fear is simply based on inadequacies of the ‘God’ of the past—‘it is the emerging form of YHVH that is revealed in the new paradigm who can and will sustain you just as the form of YHVH in the old paradigm sustained you as long as it was viable’” (Deut. 1:29-30). But, by believing that “God” can only be the construction of YHVH that now has to be transcended, we can only lose faith and fail to recognize and follow the “new” YHVH that is leading us ahead, lighting our way in the darkness of the present, while remaining mysterious in the cloud of the future (Deut. 1:33). The result is that anyone who is only looking backwards will never be able to see the emergence of the new paradigm. “Only a person like Caleb ben Yefuneh, a ‘heart-like being,’ who can empty herself of the comforts, constructions, and beliefs of the old paradigm, will see it, and I bestow it upon such a one who has already fearlessly stepped into the new paradigm and those that follow, they alone who are prepared to whole heartedly follow the YHVH of the emerging paradigm of the future” (Deut. 1:36).

    May our encounter with the 9th of Av help us eliminate everything that binds us to a paradigm that is ending and prepare us for the birthing of a new and more evolved paradigm that will enable us to follow YHVH into the future—a future that is just being born…

    Dedicated to the memory of my father, the Tzaddik and Ba’al Mitzvot, Yitzhak Aizik Dove Ber ben Shimon ha-Kohen, his memory is a blessing.

    Reply
  11. Moshe Levin

    For me, it is not possible to avoid the pressing questions raised by the traditional practices and mourning rituals in the observance of the anniversary of the Destructions of our Two Temples, i.e., Tisha b’Av.
    It is some 125 years since Pioneers started settling in the Land of Israel, 100 years since the birth of the Kibbutz movement, 62 years since the founding of the State, and 43 years since the wall that divided the city of Yerushalayim came down and the city was reunited. How can we continue in our tefillot to beg for a Return to Tziyon while Jews are dancing in front of the Kotel every Friday eve, drinking in the streets every Purim, parading with shows of Israeli power and independence every Yom Haatzmaut, etc., etc. Yes, there are problems, but isn’t this even more than what our ancestors prayed for? By disregarding the reality and acting like we are still mourning “the ruins where jackals run over the Temple Mount,” we make a mockery of our tefillot and our ancestors’ dreams.

    So I would like to see not only a discussion about this, but some dealing with it – that’s why I even want to include music in my Tisha b’Av this year, albeit toned down, but music nevertheless.
    And I want us to deal with and discuss the benefits that came out of the event of the Hurban Habayit. They include the decentralization of Worship so that the religion was restored to the People vs. the Kohanim. It made Judaism democratic!
    and secondly, The fall of the Temple raised the institution of synagogues which enabled Judaism to evolve andsurvive. A permanent Temple, run by the same establishment, would be like the Vatican. Different shuls means different strokes for different folks and competition which leads to improvement, even today.
    Thirdly, Judaism got transformed from a ritual cult with Korbanot to a spiritual religion through tefillah and mitzvot.
    Fourth, the Hurban resulted in Judaism’s ability to survive throughout the world. Look at the great jewish centers from Babylon to Alexandria to Toledo to Worms to Vilna to Warsaw to New York! All Diaspora centers!
    Five, it brought an end to a “Shrine-Judaism.” That is until Jerusalem became reunited in ’67 and we resurrected the Shrine in the form of the Kotel. I believe this alone is food for a very significant discussion!
    Of course we want to read Eikha, and I like Aryae’s idea that we dim lights and read it by candlelight. But perhaps one of the changes we should make based upon today’s reality is to sit on chairs and NOT on the floor.
    And perhaps we should conclude the Service with something significantly upbeat celebrating the reality of the State of Israel. And in fact, the traditional song after Eikha is somewhat upbeat, but I’d like to see us go further.
    Not dealing with this reality is like the story of the pastor who’s lost at sea from a shipwreck and prays for God’s intervention. Passing up a raft, a ship and even a helicopter as he waits for God. When he drowns and complains to God for forsaking him, God’s response is, “Shmo, I sent you a raft, a ship and even a helicopter – you chose to disregard them!”

    Reply
  12. Wendy

    From Rabbi Simon Jacobson

    From Rabbi Jacobson’s drash on Devarim: Dark Side of the Moon

    The Power of Rejection

    …This also coincides with the saddest part of the Jewish calendar. On the thirteenth day of Moses’ 40-day journey on Mt. Sinai, we enter the difficult month of Av.

    This is the second segment of three 40-day periods that Moses will spend on the mountain. The first 40-day period (Sivan 6-Tammuz 17) is the time when Moses receives and is taught the entire Torah. He then descends, discovers the Golden Calf, destroys it, shatters the tablets, and then returns to the mountain for the second 40-day period (Tammuz 18-Av 29), beseeching G-d for forgiveness. Unsuccessful, he goes back for a third 40-day period (Av 30-Tishrei 10) and this time he succeeds and descends triumphantly on Yom Kippur with the Second Tablets in hand.

    We know much about the first and third 40-day period. Both are well documented in the Torah: The first – when Moses receives the Torah; the last when G-d shows Moses “His ways” and reveals to him the Thirteen Divine Attributes of Compassion.

    By contrast, we know precious little about the middle forty-day period. We know that they are called days of ‘wrath’ (Seder Olam ch. 6. Rashi Deuteronomy 10:10), because G-d is not receptive to Moses’ pleas (in contrast to the third 40-day period, which are called days of ‘compassion,’ when G-d welcomes the prayers of Moses).

    As usual, human curiosity gravitates to the unknown and the mysterious. What happened in this middle 40-day period? How was Moses able to face an ‘angry’ G-d for 40 days on end? What did he say and what did he hear? Above all, what kept him going when he was not receiving any positive response? And how did he even venture to return a third time when he was rejected for 40 long days and nights?

    What is so intriguing about it is that this is a true case study – perhaps the ultimate one – of human resilience and confidence. When faced with a formidable challenge, and the odds seem impossible, what are we people capable of? When do we give up and when do we persist? And above all, how do we hold on when everything is crumbling around us?

    Had Moses succeeded in gaining G-d’s forgiveness with little or no effort, we would have been left with no lesson. Of course, the great Moses has G-d’s ear, so it’s no surprise that he can break through any door. But what about us ordinary people – what can we really expect to achieve when all seems lost?

    –– This brings to mind a story, that either is or is not relevant here [but, hey, a good story is always timely…]: The Baal Shem Tov gathered ten great tzaddikim to pray for a very sick child, but to no avail. As a last resort, he went to the edge of town and gathered together ten thieves and asked them to pray for the child. Their prayers helped, and the child recovered. Later, when asked how is it that the thieves’ prayers could achieve that which the tzaddikim could not, the Baal Shem Tov replied with a smile: “I saw that all the gates in heaven were sealed, and I needed someone to break in”… ––

    But Moses did not succeed easily in breaking through the gates of heaven. In this middle 40-day period all Moses’ efforts did not yield the results he wanted. And yet, it is precisely in this rejection that we can learn the most profound lessons in life.

    In fact, this is the deeper message of the month we are now entering, the month of Av: On the surface, Av is the saddest month of the year, being the time when many tragic events took place in history, largest of which is the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem. The Nine Days (from Av1-9) is traditionally a period of mourning, when we avoid celebrations and entertainment. The sadness intensifies as we get closer to Tisha B’Av (9th of Av), until the ninth day that is a 25-hour fast day, when we dim the lights and sit ‘shiva’ – in mourning of the destroyed Temples.

    What are we to make of these sad days?

    The Arizal tells us that in the throes of Tisha B’Av afternoon, as the raging fires were consuming the Temple, Moshiach is born. Redemption is conceived from the ashes of destruction.

    In the deepest darkness lies the strongest light. However, from our limited perspective we can only see one dimension at a time: either we see dark or we see light. Someone with deep eyesight and strong focus can see the light within the dark.

    Moses was such a person. When G-d refused him during the second 40-day period, Moses did not see rejection; he saw opportunity. Where others saw ‘wrath,’ he saw challenge. Where others saw hopelessness, he saw potential.

    Moses had this vision because he had unwavering faith in the essential goodness of G-d and absolute confidence that good will always prevail. Moses did not have the word “no” in his lexicon, nor the word “impossible” or “hopeless.” Armed with such confidence, nothing, absolutely nothing, could shake Moses. He didn’t even accept G-d telling him that his request was impossible. Moses was supremely resolute, persistent – absolutely sure that his cause was right, and that which is right will triumph.

    Rabbi Akiva was another such man, when he laughed as he looked at the desolate Temple Mount. And so was the Arizal, when he saw redemption in the darkest moments.

    Our eyesight may not be quite on the level of these great souls. Yet, we are blessed with the ability to look at life through their eyes. When we read the words of Moses, we are essentially being given the gift to see life through his eyes. The same with Rabbi Akiva, the Arizal and others of that caliber.

    Ask yourself: How do you deal with rejection? With disappointments, with shattered dreams and broken promises? How do you look at the darker moments of life, at failures and losses?

    Moses’ seemingly unsuccessful 40 day journey to Sinai in these days was actually very successful in that it allows us a deeper glimpse into a man of G-d under pressure; it empowers us with the ability to see the process, not just the results.

    Above all: it gave birth to the compassion of the next 40 days, culminating with Yom Kippur. The Shaloh writes that Aryeh (the mazal/sign of the month of Av) is an acronym for: Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabba. The compassion of Elul; renewal of Rosh Hashana; forgiveness of Yom Kippur; and sealing of Hoshana Rabba – all are born out of the energy of Av.

    It’s true that we are not satisfied with these 40 days of ‘wrath’ – and neither was Moses; what we want is to have compassion in our lives, and consciously feel the triumph of hope that was finally achieved on Yom Kippur. Yet, at the same time, Moses’ later success was determined by how he dealt earlier with rejection, better said: how it left him unperturbed, and more resolute than ever.

    The saying goes: There are people who are like teabags. You don’t know strong they are until you put them in hot water…

    When you think about it, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to say that this 40-day period carries the secret to life, the secret of Moses, the secret of eternity.

    How you deal with crisis, with rejection, with failure will determine how successful you will ultimately be. One can say that success is actually born out of failure. Some people are demoralized and crushed when they fail. Others allow the failure to educate them and to motivate them, to build in them a deeper fortitude, which gives them the power to succeed in the future.

    Yes, there are those who see this month as Av – the saddest month in the calendar. Some have even mastered the methods to mourn and grieve.

    But there are others who see the Menachem (in) Av (the complete name of the month) – they see the comfort and the consolation within the pain.

    Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev tells us that on Shabbat Chazon (the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av) each one of us is shown the Third Temple from afar, in order to evoke in us the desire to have the Temple with us. Hence, the name Shabbat Chazon – Shabbat of Vision.

    There are those that see the vision of Isaiah (read in this week’s haftorah) which describes his vision of destruction; and there are those that see the rebuilt Third Temple.

    We were given the power to choose our visions.

    Why should you not be one of those that see the Menachem in Av?

    Reply
  13. Aryae Post author

    Rabbi Zvi Miller

    The Talmud (Yoma 9b) states: “The First Temple was destroyed because of three sins that took place in that era – idol worship, adultery, and murder. Whereas during the period of the Second Temple the people were engaged in Torah study, the performance of Mitzvoth, and good deeds. If so, why was the Second Temple destroyed? It was destroyed because the people of that generation were afflicted with the trait of baseless hatred.”

    Rabbi Akiva taught that the axiomatic principle of the Torah is: “Love your fellow as you love yourself.” There are two components of love: (1) Deed and (2) Thought.

    “Deeds of Love” means to perform acts of kindness – unconditionally, abundantly, and unceasingly.

    Whereas “Thoughts of Love” consists of two ideals: Firstly, the contemplation of the great worth of each member of our community, as well as the great value of the community at large. The very awareness of these precious thoughts, i.e., the love, importance, and worthiness of other people, is the basis of the world’s existence.

    The second ideal of “Thoughts of Love” concerns sensitivity to others, i.e., to feel the joy, pain, and needs of our fellow human beings.

    For that reason, the “baseless hatred” of the people of the Second Temple period caused the Temple to be destroyed. The Temple was the link between the Nation of Israel and Heaven. The Torah urges us to love, value, and care for each other. When the love is replaced with baseless hatred, we no longer have the merit to have the Presence of HaShem dwell among us. Consequently, the Temple, i.e., the dwelling place of HaShem, can no longer exist on earth.

    The Tikun (rectification) for the sin of baseless hatred is to relate to others with unconditional Love. Let us endeavor to view all of our family members and friends with a positive eye (including yourself.)

    In this way, we will re-establish the awareness of “Love for our Fellow,” which is the required condition for the Temple to be re-built.

    May we merit seeing the return of the Divine Presence amongst the People of Israel.

    [Based on Chachmah V’Mussar of Rav Simchah Zissel Ziv]

    Today: Filter all negative thoughts of other people from entering your mind.

    When you do think of others – only think of them in ways of how you can help them. (Rabbi Yisrael Salanter)

    eMussar” Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Zvi Miller and the Salant Foundation

    Reply
  14. Wendy

    From Rabbi David Seidenberg 2010

    Dear Chevrei,

    My friend Maggid David Arfa, reminded me yesterday of the midrash that
    tells of King David going to dig the foundations for the Temple, which
    is built according to aggadah on the “even sh’tiyah,” the foundation
    stone of the world. The waters of the t’hom, the abyss, rise up
    through the breach King David has made, threatening to destroy the
    world. It is only by casting a pot shard whre God’s name is written
    onto the waters that the waters quell their bursting forth from the
    abyss.

    David Arfa pointed out how deeply connected this midrash is to what
    has happened in the Gulf of Mexico. Human hubris that we know how to
    pierce the ocean’s deepest depths has led to the worst overt
    environmental catastrophe of our lifetimes. (I’m excluding global
    climate disruption, which could ultimately be on a far larger scale,
    when it unfolds.)

    At least King David had in mind a holy task, however inapprorpiate he
    was to carry out that task. Building the Beit Hamikdash, the Temple,
    was ultimately meant to increase life in the world–that is the
    essence of what makes it holy. But our drilling for oil can only
    damage life, both in its production and its use.

    When King David throws the shard upon the waters, they retreat 16,000
    cubits–too low to nourish the land. So he sings the fifteen Psalms
    called Shir Hama’alot, songs of ascent, to bring them up again to 1000
    cubits below the earth. The shard is like the technology we use to
    control the mistakes we make–it cannot predictably right what is
    wrong. Too many times have we learned that in the Gulf of Mexico
    crisis. In the midrash, poetry somehow brings what is needed to heal
    the situation.

    I don’t know how poetry can heal environmental disasters, but it can
    heal hearts that have become hardened. This is what we do on Tisha
    B’Av, immerse ourselves in the poetry of grieving. We grieve the Holy
    Temple, because it represented the struggle to bring life into the
    world, to nurture all of creation. But God says, “Build me a sanctuary
    and I will dwell within them.” The greatest tool that can teach us to
    nurture life instead of destroying it is within us, our hearts.

    David Arfa also taught me something else today which is worth sharing.
    The midrash about King David is also a parable for how we encounter
    our feelings of grief. If we open ourselves up to feeling the true
    magnitude of suffering in the world–both in what we are doing to
    Nature and what people are doing to each other–then our feelings
    threaten to overwhelm and drown us. But in order to survive, we
    suppress those feelings so far down that we become spiritually dry,
    unable to access the emotional resources we need. What we can do is
    sing–i.e. pray, meditate, really sing, etc.–in order to bring those
    feelings up slowly to the surface, so that we can be watered without
    being inundated.

    I wish us all the chance to grieve well the loss of the Temple in this
    spirit, and to grieve for what has happened to the planet and what may
    yet happen, knowing that indeed we are culpable, as we are culpable
    for what has happened in the Gulf. You can use the prayer about the
    Gulf found on the homepage of neohasid.org to help with this. And I
    wish that our grieving and our poetry will give us the strength to
    continue the struggle to live in a way that brings more life to the
    planet.

    Rabbi David Seidenberg

    Reply
  15. Wendy

    From Rabbi Jill Hammer

    Lament of the Twelve Sisters: A Tisha b’Av Story 2010

    On Tisha b’Av twelve ancestor-sisters gather to weep. On other days it is only the One-who-Mourns who weeps over the sorrows of the world, but on this day, the day the Temple was destroyed, they all gather on the Mount of Olives to remember the razing of Jerusalem and the suffering of exiles all over the world.

    Nisan was born first, but she is the youngest. She wears innocence in a locket—a gift from her Mother—but she is no innocent. Her girlish heart breaks open for children who cannot learn their language because the conqueror forbids it, who do not own their land because it was stolen from them. She weeps for child slaves, child prostitutes, girls who cannot read, infant brides, boys who cannot expect a future.

    The second of the sisters is Iyar, the midwife, her thick hair piled in a wrap so it is out of the way while she heals the wounds of the world. This day she weeps for the stillborn babes and the listless toddlers, the folk with cholera and hepatitis, the amputees, the mothers in ambulances that cannot reach the hospital. She weeps for the toll taken by poverty and war.

    Sivan is the prophetess, with a long braid, strong fingers, and a drum. She is the gadfly of the world, awakening the rhythms of change. She weeps for all the prophet-folk slain as they work for justice: the nuns of South America, the peacekeepers, the Gandhis and Kings, the Joans-of-Arc, the demonstrators and the women in black. She speaks forth poems and hymns, raising a lament for those who raised their voices and gave their lives. She mourns also for those who prophesy and are not heeded.

    Mother Tammuz lifts her immense breast from the mouth of the world for a moment, so she can remember all the mothers like her, all those who have no bed to lay their children down and no food to feed their little ones. Mother Tammuz lets her tears roll down for the mothers who lose their children to prisons and interrogations, and the mothers who have to leave their children to earn bread. Mother Tammuz wants peace, and enough soup to go around.

    Av is the wisest of them all. She is large-boned like the ancient mountains. She carves traditions as if from wood. Tonight her gaze is sad and thoughtful. She mourns the ones with faults that led to tragedy: carelessness, timidity, pettiness, faulty knowledge, inattention at the wrong moment. She mourns the priests and prophets who let Jerusalem burn because they were feuding with one another. She knows they do not sleep well—in this world or any other.

    The sixth sister, Elul, is the keeper of the altars and the sacred fires, everywhere on earth. She spills her bright red curls on the sacred stones of the holy places of the world, weeping for all the holy places defaced and destroyed by zealots. She weeps for the clergy of the fields and trees, deposed by the conquerors. She weeps for the lost, bent, distorted traditions of traumatized people. She weeps for the stones of the Temple.

    Tishrei is the warrior-queen, crowned and in armor. On most days she rides forth to the battle between self-delusion and self-reflection. She takes her stand within the human heart. Today, she is mourning those who lost the battle and succumbed to narcissism and wrong deeds. They too need to be mourned, and she is perhaps the only one with the fortitude to do it. She knows she too could do evil, if she let herself. She remembers this always.

    Marcheshvan is She who Mourns. Today is her day, the day when all turn their attention to the work of grieving. She takes only a little comfort in this. Today she mourns that tomorrow the world will turn its attention away again. She will be left alone to witness the forgotten ones of the world. She rubs her red eyes and looks toward the horizon. If the Messiah ever comes, she is the one who will notice first.

    The shamaness with dreadlocks and ragged cloak, that is Kislev, the ninth sister. On Tisha b’Av, she mourns for the magic—all the lost faith that happens when one is surrounded by callousness and cruelty. She opens the book of signs and symbols and points, knowing only a few of the exiles will look back. She is willing to be a teacher, if only a student will appear among the refugees. She believes in the power of re-invention.

    Tevet’s head is shaved and she holds a begging bowl. She is the seeker and has walked barefoot for millennia on the roads that lead from one country to the next. She grieves for those whose hearts are broken, who cannot accept, who cannot mourn, who cannot let go, who cannot hold another ounce of pain. She offers to hear the pain, to absorb the blows, to help peace enter.

    Shevat is the One Who Loves. Full-hipped and wide-mouthed, she walks among the people, sowing the seeds of love, shaking the earth, bringing change to societies and hope to whole generations, for love conquers all. On this day she is mourning for all lovers separated by war: soldiers away from their families; partners torn apart because of religion, family, or nationality; lovers unfairly divided by death. She mourns whenever there is hatred on earth.

    The laughing one, Adar, stands aside telling jokes. The other sisters are angry with her, but she means no disrespect. This is Adar’s way of mourning. She laughs till she cries, using her humor to lift the spirits of all who are sad. She works to bring life back to bodies and souls that have lost their vital spark. No one can turn aside the Fool’s healing breeze. She lopes into the desert or the refugee camp, and that place is never the same. Adar was born last, but she is Eldest.

    On Tisha b’Av the twelve ancestor-sisters gather to weep, and the One who Mourns leads them in lamentation. The Weaver their Mother does not weep. Serenely she goes on working the threads of time across the loom, adding another color, another pattern. She is the Temple, falling and being rebuilt. She is life in its frail frantic majesty. She is so beautiful that the weeping ones rejoice in her even as they mourn for all the sorrows of the world.

    Reply
  16. Wendy

    From Rabbi Marcia Prager

    Tisha b’Av is a time of grief, yet our Tisha b’Av gathering also reminds us that hope can spring from destruction in surprising ways.

    Many people do not understand why we should mourn the destruction of the Temple, because they do not particularly want to see the physical Temple rebuilt or (G-d forbid) sacrifices resume, and life has gone on in a way that makes that past seem irrelevant.

    However is important to understand the psycho-spiritual function of the Temple, for when the Beis HaMikdash (Sacred House/Temple) still stood, this was the central resident address of the Shekhinah.

    What this meant was that we used the innermost sacred fulcrum of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, as that place where the Cohanim could hold open the portal between the material world and the upper realms beyond time and space. This holy work of holding open the channel through which G-d energy flows enabled the shefa, the Divine Flow, to flow into and vivify the world. Through this holy work we ourselves could touch the Divine realms and influence the G-d -flow to be strong, loving and compassionate. Being able to channel Shekhinah energy into ourselves and the world in this way was no small thing.

    When the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, and the sacred service of the Cohanim and Levi’im was ended, we were utterly devastated as a people. In our grief, we began the practice of rising at midnight to sit by the ruins. We rubbed our foreheads with ashes as we gathered to mourn the destruction and exile of our people and to pray for restoration.

    With the revolutionary rabbis as guides, we also began to learn how to use the practices of mitzvot and both personal and communal t’fliiah (prayer) to hold open the channel for the Divine within our hearts.

    The story continues: Centuries later we embraced a fresh grief: The murder of Jewish men, women and children by the Catholic Inquisition, and the exile of the Jewish communities of Spain.

    Exiles from Spain grappled with the confusion and pain of this new exile. Some regrouped in Sfat, in northern Israel, to heal and question. The focus turned inward. We wanted to know why we kept experiencing destruction and exile, and if there was a lesson we were supposed to learn. We came to understand that exile is not only a political condition but also is a spiritual condition.

    Understanding that the human being is the ‘temple’ in need of restoration and repair, we began to teach that the Tikkun Olam (Cosmic Repair) that we sought in the world would only come as a result of each of us mending our own internal exile.

    We realized that we had to melt the iron wall of hurt and sorrow that we have each built to shield us from our pain and loss, because this wall separates us from the holy spark that is alive in our hearts. This is what we mean when we say that “Shekhinah is in Exile” – that the inner spark is hidden and blocked.

    There is Exile of the Shekhinah happening for each of us, for our people as a whole, and for the entire world.

    When we are in pain, and we push aside the holy spark, this is the condition that we call Hurban – Destruction of the Temple. If we can’t feel that this is happening, if we don’t even notice and have numbed the pain or replaced it with rage, this is a sign that the Hurban – the destruction and exile – has overtaken. But when we do begin to reconnect and to feel the pain in a safe way, this brings healing and the beginning of redemption.

    Rumi, the great Sufi poet, lived in a land filled with the ruins of past empires. Often treasures were buried beneath the rubble of palaces and tombs. He wrote: “Under every ruin lies hope for a treasure. Why not seek the treasure of God in the ruin of the devastated heart.”

    You may wish to reflect on ways in which a tragedy, genuinely grieved and mourned, yet still acknowledged as true tragedy, nevertheless can unfold a blessing, or a positive outcome later on, and how the process of grief and healing works. There can be a healing of the past hurt and a renewal of hope. This is an aspect of the experience of redemption.

    As we deeply enter our grief, may we also open to the redemptive possibilities of the healing that can come and re-discover hope, promise and the living Presence moving within and among us.

    Reply
  17. Wendy

    From Rav Kook

    Three Weeks: Rebuilding the World with Love

    Rectifying Baseless Hatred

    Why was the Second Temple destroyed? The Sages in Yoma 9b noted that the people at that time studied Torah, observed mitzvot and performed good deeds. Their great failure was in sinat chinam – baseless hatred. It was internal strife and conflict that ultimately brought about the Temple’s destruction.

    How may we rectify this sin of sinat chinam? Rav Kook wrote, in one of his most oft-quoted statements:

    “If we were destroyed, and the world with us, due to baseless hatred, then we shall rebuild ourselves, and the world with us, with baseless love — ahavat chinam. (Orot HaKodesh vol. III, p. 324)

    This call for baseless love could be interpreted as following Maimonides’ advice on how to correct bad character traits. In the fourth chapter of Shemonah Perakim, Maimonides taught that negative traits are corrected by temporarily overcompensating and practicing the opposite extreme. For example, one who is naturally stingy should balance this trait by acting overly generous, until he succeeds in uprooting his miserliness. Similarly, by going to the extreme of ahavat chinam, we repair the trait of sinat chinam.

    This interpretation, however, is not Rav Kook’s line of thought. Ahavat chinam is not a temporary remedy, but an ideal, the result of our perception of the world’s underlying unity and goodness.

    The Source of Hatred

    Why do we hate others? We may think of many reasons why, but these explanations are not the real source for our hatred of other people. They are merely signs and indications of our hatred. It is a lack of clarity of thought that misleads us into believing that these are the true causes of hatred.

    The true source of hate comes from our otzar hachaim, our inner resource of life. This fundamental life-force pushes us to live and thrive, and opposes all that it views as different and threatening. Ultimately, our hate is rooted in sinat chinam – groundless and irrational animosity, just because something is different.

    Yet even in hatred lies a hidden measure of love. Baseless love and baseless hatred share a common source, a love of life and the world. This common source hates that which is evil and destructive, and loves that which is good and productive.

    How can we overcome our hatred? If we can uncover the depth of good in what we perceive as negative, we will be able to see how good will result even from actions and ideas that we oppose. We will then recognize that our reasons for hatred are unfounded, and transform our hatred into love and appreciation.

    ‘I Burn with Love’

    This idea of ahavat chinam was not just a theoretical concept. Rav Kook was well-known for his profound love for all Jews, even those far removed from Torah and mitzvot. When questioned why he loved Jews distant from the ideals of Torah, he would respond, “Better I should err on the side of baseless love, than I should err on the side of baseless hatred.”

    Stories abound of Rav Kook’s extraordinary love for other Jews, even those intensely antagonistic to his ways and beliefs. Once Rav Kook was publicly humiliated by a group of extremists who showered him with waste water in the streets of Jerusalem. The entire city was in an uproar over this scandalous act. The legal counsel of the British Mandate advised Rav Kook to press charges against the hooligans, promising that they would be promptly deported from the country. The legal counsel, however, was astounded by the Chief Rabbi’s response.

    “I have no interest in court cases. Despite what they did to me, I love them. I am ready to kiss them, so great is my love! I burn with love for every Jew.”

    Practical Steps towards Ahavat Chinam

    In his magnum opus Orot HaKodesh, Rav Kook gave practical advice on how to achieve this love.

    •Love for the Jewish people does not start from the heart, but from the head. To truly love and understand the Jewish people – each individual Jew and the nation as a whole — requires a wisdom that is both insightful and multifaceted. This intellectual inquiry is an important discipline of Torah study.

    •Loving others does not mean indifference to baseness and moral decline. Our goal is to awaken knowledge and morality, integrity, and refinement; to clearly mark the purpose of life, its purity and holiness. Even our acts of loving-kindness should be based on a hidden Gevurah, an inner outrage at the world’s — and thus our own — spiritual failures.

    •If we take note of others’ positive traits, we will come to love them with an inner affection. This is not a form of insincere flattery, nor does it mean white-washing their faults and foibles. But by concentrating on their positive characteristics — and every person has a good side — the negative aspects become less significant.

    •This method provides an additional benefit. The Sages cautioned against joining with the wicked and exposing oneself to their negative influence. But if we connect to their positive traits, then this contact will not endanger our own moral and spiritual purity.

    •We can attain a high level of love for Israel by deepening our awareness of the inner ties that bind together all the souls of the Jewish people, throughout all the generations. In the following revealing passage, Rav Kook expressed his own profound sense of connection with and love for every Jewish soul:

    “Listen to me, my people! I speak to you from my soul, from within my innermost soul. I call out to you from the living connection by which I am bound to all of you, and by which all of you are bound to me. I feel this more deeply than any other feeling: that only you — all of you, all of your souls, throughout all of your generations — you alone are the meaning of my life. In you I live. In the aggregation of all of you, my life has that content that is called ‘life.’ Without you, I have nothing. All hopes, all aspirations, all purpose in life, all that I find inside myself — these are only when I am with you. I need to connect with all of your souls. I must love you with a boundless love….

    “Each one of you, each individual soul from the aggregation of all of you, is a great spark from the torch of infinite light, which enlightens my existence. You give meaning to life and work, to Torah and prayer, to song and hope. It is through the conduit of your being that I sense everything and love everything.” (Shemonah Kevatzim, vol. I, sec. 163)

    (Silver from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Orot HaKodesh vol. III, pp. 324-334; Malachim K’vnei Adam, pp. 262, 483-485)

    Copyright © 2006 by Chanan Morrison

    Anticipating Redemption

    There are six measures, the Sages taught, by which we are judged:

    “When brought for heavenly judgment, one is questioned: ‘Were your business dealings honest? Did you set fixed hours for Torah study? Did you engage in procreation? Did you anticipate redemption? Did you discuss wisdom? Did you discern new insights?'” (Shabbat 31a)

    Most of these questions indeed are the cornerstones of a life well-lived. But the fourth one — “Did you anticipate redemption?” – why is that so important? Don’t we all hope for the best? What does this trait reveal about how one has lived one’s life?

    Part of the Nation

    It is important to understand that this anticipation is not simply hoping that our personal difficulties will quickly be resolved. Rather, it means that we should anticipate the redemption of Israel and all of humanity. As Rashi explains, one should look forward to the fulfillment of the visions of the prophets.

    This demand is not a trivial one. As individuals we are easily caught up with our own personal problems and issues. In truth, we should feel that we are like a limb of a great organism. We should recognize that we are part of a nation, which, in turn, is part of all humanity. The betterment of each individual contributes to the life of the larger community, thus advancing the redemption of the nation and the universe.

    The question “Tzapita leyeshu’ah?” is an important measure of one’s life. It is the yardstick that determines whether our lives have acquired a selfless, universal quality. By anticipating the redemption of the greater community, we demonstrate that we were able to raise ourselves above the narrow concerns of our private lives. We strive not just for personal ambitions, but also for the ultimate elevation of the nation and the entire world. We are part of the nation; its joys are our joys and its redemption is our redemption.

    The Sentry

    It is instructive to note that the heavenly tribunal does not ask about our hopes (tikvah) for redemption, but rather our anticipation (“tzipiyah”) of redemption. The word tzipiyah indicates a constant watchfulness, like a soldier posted to the lookout (tatzpit), serving at his observation post for days and even years. The sentry may not abandon his watch, even though he observes no changes.

    We, too, are on the lookout. We should examine every incident that occurs in the world. With each new development, we should consider whether this is perhaps something that will advance the redemption of Israel and the entire world.

    However, tzipiyah leyeshu’ah is not merely passive observation. Woe to the army whose sentries perceive a threat but fail to take action. The moment there is some development in the field, the soldiers must respond swiftly, to defend or retreat. Our tzipiyah also includes the readiness to act promptly. While these two traits — constant watchfulness and rapid response — may appear contradictory, they are both included in the obligation of tzipiyah leyeshu’ah.

    (Silver from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, pp. 279-280; Ein Eyah vol. III on Shabbat 31a (2:164).)

    Copyright © 2006 by Chanan Morrison

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  18. Wendy

    From Rabbi Gershon Winkler

    THE SECRET OF THE NINTH DAY

    A Tisha B’Ahv Teaching from Gershon…

    On the Ninth Day of the Hebraic Moon of Ahv, the First Temple fell. And the Second Temple fell. And World War One began (August 1, 1914), which in turn triggered World War Two.

    So there is something mysterious about the Ninth Day of the Hebraic Month of Ahv.

    This year, the Ninth Day of Ahv will coincide with the Ninth Day of August. According to Jewish moon wisdom it heralds the culmination, the climax, the crescendo, of a three-week period during which the Spirit of Bitterness reigns supreme. It is also a period the ancients called בין המצרים Time “Between the Narrowings” (Midrash Eichah Rabbah 1:29), alluding to the period during which Light and Darkness compete for dominance, as Day extends longer over Night, and Night struggles to meet the length of Day and then extends longer than Day. It is not about one being better or holier than the other. After all, both Light and Darkness have their equal sanctity and role in the scheme of our existence. It is more about the competition, the wrestling of the two, a period during which all is affected by this cosmic strife, creating within all a little more turmoil than usual. Once the struggle is over, and the two contenders have reached an acceptance and an acknowledgment of the newly-acquired role of each in the forthcoming moons of autumn and winter, the consequential sense of struggle and strife in all those under the influence of night and day, settles down, and we then celebrate the full moon of the otherwise tragic Moon of Ahv as one of the most joyous dates on the Hebrew calendar (Talmud Yerushalmi, Ta’anit 26a).

    This is the deeper meaning behind the Talmudic teaching about the fall of the First and Second Temples. Why did they fall? “First Temple because of murder, idolatry, and sexual abuse; Second Temple because of baseless animosity” (Talmud Bav’li, Yoma 9b). In other words, we did not rise above the cosmic influences of the struggle between Light and Darkness, but allowed ourselves to be swept along into the whirlwind of a struggle that wasn’t ours. On a personal human level, it is akin to allowing ourselves to be carried along by the whims of impulse and instinct instead of rising above either which it is in our capacity as humans to do. This is the meaning of קדוש ka’dosh, or what we glibly refer to as “holy.” It has nothing to do with religion or spirituality; it is bigger than both. It has to do with tapping into our potential to move our selves beyond that which otherwise moves us. Thus, when the בית המקדש Bayt Ha’Mikdash – the House of Holiness – ceased to represent Holiness, it became just one more temple of emptiness and crumbled.

    We are taught to grieve during this period, to grieve over the fall of our nation 2,500 years ago and then again 2,000 years ago, and the simultaneous destructions of the First and Second Temples, respectively. And so, on the Ninth of Ahv we sit on the floor, in socks or sneakers, lamenting over what happened to us more than 2,000 years ago, and chanting sorrowfully from the ancient Book of Lamentations composed by the prophet Jeremiah who witnessed the first destruction. This is all good. It is okay to remember what happened, to grieve a little over tragedies that befell us as a people. But like the second-century Rabbi Yehoshua taught: “Not to grieve at all, is inappropriate; and to grieve excessively, is also inappropriate” (Talmud Bav’li, Tosefta Sotah 15:5). Because excess begins to spill into impulse, the opposite of rising beyond whim to take hold of what it means to be human, and what it means to be holy. Rabbi Yehoshua took this principle a step further and applied it as well to religious practice, and even to mourning the loss of our Holy Temple. Any emotion we are endowed with has it healthy quality and its unhealthy quality. It is no wonder, the third-century Rabbi Yehudah Ha’Nassi wanted to altogether abolish the practice of fasting and grieving over the temple on the Ninth Ahv, or at least to disregard the day altogether whenever it coincided with the Sabbath, rather than make up for it on the following day (Talmud Yerushalmi, Ta’anit 4:6 [22b] and Yevamot 6:6 [30b]). Rabbi Yehudah’s ruling didn’t take, and it became tradition from then on to commemorate the fall of the two temples every year on the Ninth of Ahv, or תשעה באב Tisha B’Ahv, by communal fasting and grieving and reading from the Book of Lamentations.

    On a deeper level, however, ritual fasting and grieving over the bygone temples can just as easily create the danger of masking-over the real issues, the very root causes of those tragedies. It is far more important to spend that time healing within ourselves those very same not-so-wholesome qualities that brought the temples down, to begin with. The Babylonians, who brought down the First Temple, and the Romans, who brought down the Second Temple, were akin to the bacteria and viruses that invade us when our immune systems are malfunctioning. The temples were our immune systems, and they failed. Over time, we lost sight of their true significance and what they represented within us, and operated them by rote — in other words, on impulse. And so, our immune system shut down and we were easily invaded.

    This is also why we Jews do not eat the sciatic nerve of even the most kosher of animals. Because our ancestor Jacob was afflicted on that very spot, his sciatica, by the angel with whom he wrestled the night before his encounter with his brother Esau (Genesis 32:26) whom he had fled in fear for his life for more than two decades. You see, the sciatic nerve is called גיד הנשהGee’d Ha’Na’sheh in Hebrew, “nerve of the sciatica”, or na’sheh. Na’sheh, the ancient mystics remind us, is also related to the name of the fifth underworld, נשיה Ne’shee’yah, whose attribute is about “forgetfulness” (Hashmatot HaZohar, folio 253b). And that is exactly the term Joseph used when he named his firstborn מנשה Menasheh, “For God has נשני nee’sha’nee — caused me to forget — all of my struggles” (Genesis 41:51). Na’sheh, the ancients taught, is also a word that implies “moving out of place” (Talmud Bav’li, Chulin 91a), just as Jacob shifted out of his old patterns when he was struck in the region of the sciatic nerve.

    When we walk, we walk by the support of the na’sheh, the sciatic nerve, theplace of “forgetfulness”. Why is it the place of “forgetfulness”? Because, when we adopt a specific pattern in our life walk, we adopt a corresponding stride and walk in forgetfulness of what was. Jacob had developed a specificpattern in his life walk that was a stride based on denial of the unresolved conflict between himself and his brother. When the angel struck his sciatic nerve, his na’sheh, Jacob was in that moment struck in his forgetfulness place, thus thrown off his pattern, derailed from the stride of denial that had served his life walk until then, and made to remember his core self and his core connection with his twin, with the brother he had demonized all these years. And as a result, his walk now became different than before, and he “limped” (Genesis 32:32), meaning he did not walk again as he had before, and was blessed with a new name that honored his newfound power and paradigm: ישראל Yisra’el – “For you grappled with both, God [through the angel]and with men [your essential self and all the inner demons and shadows you concocted in your paranoia], and you succeeded” (Genesis 32:29). In other words, in that moment, Jacob realized that the shadow and the light share the same embodiment, shape-shifting from one to the other depending on where we are at in the moment, depending on how we choose to experience the encounter with the struggle of Light and Darkness within and without. Thus, at first, “a man wrestled with him” (Genesis 32:25), and in the end it was “the face of God” (Genesis 32:31).

    And so we do not eat the na’sheh nerve, because we do not wish to ingest that which causes us to forget what is core. Because when we forget what is core, we become atrophied, our psychic immune system shuts down, and we are in danger of being invaded. And when exactly did this struggle occur, between Jacob and the Angel? On the Ninth Day of the Moon of Ahv! Because, the mystics taught, there are 365 nerve avenues in the human body, corresponding to the 365 days of the year. Each nerve avenue corresponds to a particular day of the year, and the sciatic nerve corresponds to the Ninth Day of the Moon of Ahv! Therefore, of all the pressure points the angel could have chosen to weaken Jacob, none of them would have had any ill effect on him except for the sciatic nerve area because that very day was Sciatic Day, and so that day became throughout our history our day of infamy, our time of vulnerability (Zohar, Vol. 1, folio 71b).

    But let us not forget that in his time of weakness and vulnerability, Jacob did not surrender and still kept the opposing force in his grip until the angel cried “Uncle.” In other words, Jacob rose above the place of Impulse to the place of Holiness; he rose above and beyond the circumstances at hand, transcending their barriers of limitation, and succeeded in turning the struggle around so that he reversed what would otherwise have been his defeat, and he instead became the victor. Moreover, the opposing force ended up blessing him with a new name, a new power, a new level of consciousness.

    This Tisha B’Ahv, you and I can do the same. We can tap into that auspicious period of vulnerability and bitterness, and then turn it around so that we might begin to be blessed instead of cursed by the Forces of Darkness, and squeeze the Light out of them. After all, as our ancient sages taught: “The Messiah will be born on…Tisha B’Ahv” (Midrash Eichah Rabbati 1:14; Midrash Aggadot Bereisheet, Chapter 68; Midrash Eichah Zuta, Nuscha Bet, Chapter 2).

    Reply
  19. Wendy

    From Rabbi Miles Krassen/Moshe Aharon
    In memory of my mother, Miryam bat Mikhel ve-Leyka, who passed away on the 21st of Tammuz.

    Tisha B’Av Teaching

    Tonight and tomorrow we observe the 9th of Av, one of the darkest days of the Jewish calendar. According to our tradition, the 9th of Av was the date of the destruction of both the first Temple in 586 BCE, and the second in 70 CE.

    But the first temple and the second temple were very different entities, and according to our tradition their destruction hints at very different things.

    The first temple was the temple built by David and Solomon. It was a temple that existed before Torah in the way that we understand it, the way we have it now, because at that time they only had the written Torah. They didn’t have the oral tradition. When we think of Torah today, we’re basically thinking of the oral tradition. The Talmud, the midrash, the commentators – everything that we have is the Torah of human interpretation, the whole process of the human effort to mediate and apply divine guidance.

    But in the first temple they didn’t have that kind of Torah. What they had in those days was prophets. On the other hand, in the first temple they had all kinds of things that we later lost. For example by the time of the second temple they didn’t have the holy ark, which contained the tablets of the covenant. Some people think it’s in Ethiopia – you might have seen Indiana Jones, for instance. The ark was in the first temple, but it was lost after that.

    In the first temple there were all sorts of incredible things, because the period of the first temple was the period of miracles. In the first temple, the Shechina was said to be actually present in the temple. The divine presence was in the temple, was literally right in the temple. The holy ark was in the temple. The tablets were in the temple. The heavenly flame was in the temple. The urim and thummim were in the temple – the High Priest had this breastplate with these stones, and they could receive prophecy by looking at these stones. All that was in the first temple. The rabbis say that ruach ha’kodesh was in the first temple: divine inspiration dwelt there.

    But the first temple was destroyed. Why was it lost?

    In the Gemara the rabbis tell us that the first temple was lost because of three things: because of avodah zarah, gilui arayot, and shfichat damim. These are the three absolutely cardinal sins in Judaism: the three worst things you can do.

    Firstly, not worshipping God – literally avodah zarah means foreign worship, and it can be understood in all sorts of ways. Personally I like to understand it the way the Baal Shem Tov understood it: he equated it with any form of self-worship. The Baal Shem Tov connected it with the quality of gaavah, of seriously taking yourself as something that exists independently of God. That’s avodah zarah – if you’re worshipping anything but the One power itself, which is all that exists, in its myriad forms. If you think you’re something else: that’s avodah zarah. If you’re turned towards anything else besides that One: that’s avodah zarah.

    Historically, it’s one of the acts that the rabbis say if someone tries to force you to do, on pain of your life, you should allow yourself to be martyred instead. You simply can’t do it.

    So it’s associated, in a way, with a quality of korbanot, of sacrifice. A person who refuses to commit avodah zarah makes themself a korban. I make myself an offering to God. If I’m not a sacrifice to God, then that’s avodah zarah.

    It’s as simple as that, from the Baal Shem Tov’s point of view. If I really have deep faith in the teachings of our tradition, that there’s really only One, and nothing is outside of that, and certainly there’s no way that I could be; if that’s the case, I’m not outside of it either – so really there’s nothing else for me to worship, except the totality itself. Only that One which is creating and sustaining and destroying and changing and empowering everything. You can think of it in different ways, but really the more I think about it the more awesome and amazing and inspiring it seems to me. The recognition of it is its worship.

    When it comes to avodah, the service of the divine, there are different ways of doing it. But the original meaning had to do with the way they did it in the first temple, because they had the sense that the Shechina was right there with them.

    That temple was constructed as a microcosm of the totality itself. They had knowlegde of sacred geometry, and they knew how to make a building – and remember, the temple has very specific plans, how many boards here, how wide, how high – and people have studied it, just like they study the Egyptian temples. So they understood sacred geometry, and because of sacred geometry, the temple was built in such a way that it was a microcosm of the totality itself, and since the totality is filled with the divine presence, the scale model, as it were, is filled with it too. And because it was built that way and the Shechina was in it, it was filled with wonders.

    So you could say: the first temple was a temple of seeing. Everything was visible. You could see the aron ha’kodesh, the holy ark. You could see the divine presence right there, you could see the fire – you could see all these awesome things.

    The rabbis say it was destroyed because of these three things: avodah zarah, worshipping something other than the One, other than the totality. Gilui arayot means sexual behavior that is not wholesome. And shfichat damim means, basically, murder. People were murdering each other; they were not honoring sacred relationships, and they weren’t living as sacrifices to the One, the totality; they weren’t living in service to God.

    According to the rabbis, the energy of this was very undermining, to such an extent that together – unwholesome sexual relationships, and people killing each other, and not surrendering to the power of the Shechina, not offering themselves to the Shechina – those three things undermined the stability of the entire community and the entire culture, and as a result the temple was destroyed.

    But the second temple was completely different. The second temple didn’t have any of these wonders, and the rabbis didn’t say that the Shechina was really present in the same palpable way in the second temple.

    What came in in the second temple period was Torah.

    And the rabbis ask: why didn’t the second temple last? The answer they give is that the second temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam. Because people hated each other. The second temple was destroyed because people hated each other.

    You can see the tremendous difference between these temples. With the first temple, it’s very grave, heavy, overt things that brought it down. You can see very easily how with things like that it’s very difficult for a religious culture to cohere.

    The implication is that with the second temple, people weren’t doing all these terrible things. They weren’t murdering, and so on. But it was brought down because there was division. Inner division. Because of looking down on others, hatred of others, not honoring others. That’s all it took.

    There’s something very paradoxical about this history. On the one hand it seems that with the first temple all the wonders that they had, all the marvels – they’re very magical; they had prophets and prophets had these incredible experiences, visions of God and all kinds of powers. And all of this was openly revealed, on the level of seeing. And so were the things that people did wrong: they were very overt, you could see them.

    The second temple doesn’t seem to be so fantastic, but it’s really deeper, because it’s connected to what’s inside people. And what’s inside people is powerful enough to bring down the whole temple. When it gets that deep, you don’t need such overtly terrible things to upset the equilibrium, to upset the balance. The equilibrium of the second temple was undermined just because people had bad opinions of other people. That’s sinat chinam.

    Just as the first temple was connected to the quality of seeing, the second temple was connected to the quality of hearing – because the second temple wasn’t governed by prophets; it was the beginning of the period of oral Torah. It was built by Ezra and Nehemia, and what did they do? They went around and they read Torah to people. They had public readings of Torah. Before that, in the first temple, they weren’t reading Torah to people; people weren’t hearing Torah – it was all about prophets. You had some incredibly inspired people that stood out, and divine inspiration came through them, and you could see it.

    But when it came to the second temple, you had somebody reading the Torah and explaining it, and people were listening. It’s not as amazing, it’s not as fantastic, but it’s really deeper. And it’s more democratic. The responsibility has come down to every person. Historically it wasn’t quite there yet – but it was moving in a democratic direction. The second temple is the beginning of collective responsibility. It’s a temple that was built on hearing Torah, and the Shechina in that period was knesset Yisrael. Knesset Yisrael is the community of Israel. It wasn’t that the Shechina was in the Temple and you would go and worship there; but there was the Shechina in every individual soul, and the collective, all the souls put together, is the place that the Shechina was, during the time of the second temple.

    So what destroyed it? Sinat chinam. People were against each other.

    For the second temple to exist, you had to have knesset Yisrael. You had to have a community of mutual respect. You had to have a community in which every person would see the divine presence in every other person. The fact that people were divided: that’s what destroyed it.

    There were no rabbis in the first temple, and there were no rabbis in the second temple, either. Rabbis came along after the second temple was destroyed. Really they came in the wake of the destruction of the second temple, when Yochanan ben Zakkai escaped from the Romans, and he got permission to create the first yeshiva in Yavneh. That was in 70 of the common era, and after that some of the Pharisees who managed to survive the destruction of the temple, gathered in the town of Yavneh, in the Galilee, and they began to create rabbinic Judaism – which is essentially based on the fact that we don’t have the temple any more. We haven’t had a temple since then; we have what the rabbis created out of what was left when the temples were destroyed.

    The rabbis said a couple of very interesting things in this regard. One is that anybody who has daat – anybody has deep knowledge of God – it’s as if the temple was rebuilt during their life. Anybody who has an enlightened mind, anybody who has direct knowledge of God: if that person is in the world, it’s as if the temple is in the world.

    Another thing that the rabbis said was that when it comes to the first temple, because the problematic behavior was so obvious, you could also see when this behavior ceased. It was all on the level of seeing, on the level of the overt. But when it comes to the second temple, everything was more hidden. You couldn’t really see sinat chinam, because it was inside people. You can’t necessarily see hatred or lack of respect. Sometimes you can, but sometimes it’s hidden in people’s hearts and because you can’t see it, you can’t see the end of it.

    And that hatred is in fact why we still don’t have a temple two thousand years later. Not only did it bring down the second temple, but it’s made it virtually impossible for the third temple to be rebuilt.

    However, in the wake of the loss of the second temple, the rabbis brought Torah to the world in the sense that we understand it – the oral Torah. The written Torah just means the letters and the words as they are arranged in the Torah scroll; but what we really mean by Torah is everything that students of the Torah have learned and taught over the past two thousand years. That’s the oral Torah; all our rabbinic literature. That’s the way that Judaism works – you don’t even imagine that you could understand the written Torah without the oral Torah. It’s not a stand-alone. The rabbis introduced a very sophisticated, deep hermeneutic, and it’s up to us to figure out what exactly God wants from us. And that’s what the Torah really is – assuming the responsibility of interpreting and mediating what we’ve received.

    That’s really the Torah of cherut, the Torah of freedom. it’s not the Torah that’s written in stone, that Moses wrote with his finger. It’s the rabbis’ effort to reclaim the original tablets that Moses broke, that were written with the finger of God. The Torah that was written by the finger of God is the Torah of cherut, of freedom, not of charut, gravenness; it’s a Torah of infinite possibilities.

    So when we think about the third temple, we have to continue the work of the rabbis. Their third temple is the temple of daat, the temple of direct knowledge of God. The rabbis were working on the temple of the human heart, the temple that would be built through the fixing of our nature, through our evolving ourselves, through our each becoming a miniature temple. We ourselves have to become the microcosm.

    The second temple necessitated the bonding together of all Israel in order to maintain it, but they couldn’t do that because they didn’t have enough Torah yet. After that temple was destroyed, the oral Torah really began to evolve, and the emphasis of the oral Torah is that every person really needs to become a temple of their own. That’s pretty deep. That means I don’t have to go anywhere else to experience the divine presence. The Shechina is right where I am, if I’m a temple. The divine presence is everywhere I go.

    It seems to me that this is where we are now, except that now I would say that we have to move beyond even that.

    The second temple was based on a conception of knesset Yisrael – that all the Jews have to love each other. The third temple requires that we go way beyond that. It has to be a one world temple. The prophets talk about the third temple being a house for all people. What house is big enough for all people? It has to be the world itself. Only the world itself is big enough for God to say “This is my house for all people.” The earth itself is the third temple. This is the temple that we have to dedicate ourselves to.

    In the kabbalistic tradition every month is associated with a particular flaw or place which is ripe for rectification. The months of Tammuz and Av, where the three weeks fall, are associated with a flaw in hearing, and a flaw in seeing. The truth is that we’re impoverished in terms of seeing and of hearing – how we see ourselves, and how we see the world.

    The correction comes through hearing words of Torah, hearing true words, the words that have the power to fix the way we hear and see. If we look historically we for sure want to fix the sinat chinam, the hatred and disrespect, that brought down the second temple.

    But I think really now we’re trying to fix the entire way we see on the level of the third temple: we need to see the whole world as the temple of god. If we’re not seeing that, something’s wrong with our seeing. Hearing the “Shma,” that haShem is One, can fix the way we see. Because however it might appear, the truth is that all is really One. The whole world is nothing but the temple of God.

    The rabbis said that whoever sheds tears for Jerusalem will also get to experience its joy. To be able to experience the joy of the third temple, you have to experience grief at its absence. The three weeks are the time for that – the three weeks are the time to really grieve for the brokenness of the world. We’re so jaded, so conditioned to accept the tragedies of the world that we hear about every day on the news. But now is the time to allow that in, to understand how we’re connected to it, how it’s all taking place in the temple of God. If you can’t shed tears for the brokenness, you’re not going to get to the place of the third temple.

    The holy Ari, the kabbalist Yitzchak Luria, taught us that Tammuz and Av are like the eyes in the face, in part because this is the time for a correction of seeing. And there’s a verse in the book of Lamentations, that we read on Tisha b’Av:

    Al eleh ani bochiya; eini, eini yordah mayim
    Ki rachok mimeni menachem, meishiv nafshi

    Because of all these things I’m crying; my eye, my eye is dripping with water Because the comforter who can restore my soul is far from me.

    I think when we say soul there what that means is the world-soul. There are various ways the individual can feel OK, and thank God we are in a time and place where we personally are more or less safe. But really, for as long as it’s all one world, we’re in delusion if we’re not feeling the suffering of others.

    Currently we’re between the second and the third temples, though many sources say we’re getting close to the end, that we’re a lot closer to the end than we are to the beginning. According to the rabbis, every generation contributes to the building of the third temple; it all adds up. It’s the work of all generations. We’ve invested at least two thousand years in this third temple, and now we’re getting very close to the end of this period. Halavai – if only – we should see it in our own time, we should see the fixing of the 3rd temple, the rebuilding of the world.

    There’s a practice that can help us a great deal in transforming ourselves into microcsomic temples:

    You can circulate your breath around what the Taoists call the micro-cosmic orbit – inhaling from the base of your spine up to the pineal gland in the middle of your skull, and then exhaling through your third eye down to your heart. As you do this you visualize the path of the breath, and inwardly sound the letters of the divine four-letter name which is associated with the month of Av. As you inhale you sound ha – va and as you exhale sound ya – ha.

    When you circulate energy like this, you may see a lot of light. Don’t do this practice for so long that you obliterate yourself; when the light has built up a bit, switch to the mantra “ozer dalim” – “[God] helps the downtrodden” – and stay with that for a while.

    May the merit of this practice and of the oral Torah help us all transform into completed pieces of the third temple, speedily and in our days.

    And may we all be blessed to feel what we need to feel during the three weeks, during Tisha b’Av; may the world be safe; may the fixing of hearing and seeing take place and be whole and complete, and lead us in the direction of the other side, the side of the birth of mashiach, that’s also related to Tisha b’Av; and may the mayim that runs from our eyes when we feel the pain of the downtrodden that runs through this world be transformed, through our devotion, to mayim chayim nozlim m’levanon, the life-giving waters that flow down from the transcendent source of pure compassion. Amen.

    Reply
  20. Wendy

    From Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

    As Tisha b’Av approaches 2012

    We begin our descent
    toward the rubble.

    Our hearts crack open
    and sorrow comes flooding in.

    Help us to believe
    that tears can transform,

    that redemption is possible.
    The walls will come down:

    open our eyes, give us strength
    not to look away.

    Reply
  21. Wendy

    From Rabbi David Seidenberg

    Earth prayer:

    Elohei Haruchot,
    God of all spirit, all directions, all winds,
    You have placed in our hands power
    unlike any since the world began
    to overturn the orders of creation.

    Please God, give us wisdom
    and skillful hands to heal
    the Skies and the Earth from our sins;
    Y’kum purkan lish’maya
    ‘May salvation arise for the heavens’.
    that the blessings of the sun flow over us
    for life and not for death,
    for blessing and not for curse,
    as it says, ‘I will open for you
    the expanses of the Heavens
    and will empty out for you a blessing
    beyond what is enough
    and Earth’s fruit will not be destroyed
    because of you.’

    God full of compassion,
    remember Your covenant with all life,
    the covenant of the waters of Noah.
    Spread a Sukkah of compassion and peace
    over us, over all Life’s species;
    Surround all our relations,
    with Shekhinah’s radiance;
    Water them with Your river of delights
    in all of their habitats.
    May the Tree of Life will return
    to its original strength,
    then ‘the bow will appear in the cloud’,
    joyful and beautified with its colors,
    so that we and our descendants
    may merit to live many days on Earth,
    like days of the Skies over the Land.

    Blessed be the Life of the worlds!

    Reply
  22. Wendy

    From Rabbi James Stone Goodman

    Between the Narrows
    July 14, 2013

    There is a hilltop in Jerusalem
    Where heaven and earth touch
    After the destruction the bride began to weep
    The ground too
    The bride returned as a bird perched at the wall

    For three weeks in summer
    I sat low in sadness
    I planned to bleed
    To wash myself clean

    This I have been taught
    After a river of tears
    Expect the messiah

    jsg, usa

    Sources

    And he was afraid, and said: how dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of G*d (Gen. 28:17). From here you learn that anyone who prays in this place, in Jerusalem, it is as though praying before the Throne of Glory. For the gateway to heaven is there and the door is open to hear prayer, as it is said, “And this is the gate of heaven.”

    • Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, chapter 35, English Friedlander pp, 265-66.

    And so David said, Jerusalem is built like a city joined together (Ps. 122:3), that is, as a city G*d built, and the Targum Yonatan translates: Jerusalem was built as a city in the heavens to be joined with the one on earth. And G*d swore that the Shekhinah would not enter the city on high until one below has been rebuilt.

    • Tanhuma Exodus, Pikudei section 1

    The main custom is to sit on the floor (until Midnight on Tisha B’Av). One may sit on a cushion or on a low stool.

    • Shulchan Aruch w/Mishnah Brurah 559:3, MB 11

    My [Elijah] son [R Yosi], what sound did you hear in this ruin? I replied: I heard a divine voice, cooing like a dove.

    • BT. Berakhot 3a

    There were two types of birds at the wall. The doves nesting quietly in the Wall, and the swifts screeching and careening madly for the minute or so it took to speak the mourner’s prayer.

    I told the story to Miri, long time resident of Jerusalem.

    She said to me, the swifts were not always here. I know an Arab man in the Old City who told me that before the Jews came back in ’67, there were no swifts here. The swifts returned to the Wall with the Jews.

    • Aggadat Miri

    Behold the gates of mercy an arbitrary space
    And none of us deserving the cruelty or the grace

    • Eliezer HaKohen

    Though the gates of prayer are closed the gates of weeping are not.

    • BT. Berakhot 32b

    On the day the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, Messiah was born.

    • Eicha Rabbah 1:51

    James Stone Goodman

    Between the narrows
    The straits —
    The 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av
    Constriction opening onto
    Redemption

    Pinch
    Squeeze
    And from the squeeze
    Surge

    You open to me with expansiveness
    Contract and expand
    Constrict and open

    Breath pursed
    Narrows to release
    From constraint to expanse
    From exile to redemption

    From the narrows I call to You
    You answer with
    Expansiveness

    Reply
  23. Aryae Post author

    From Babyonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a

    R. Joshua b. Levi met Elijah (the Prophet) standing by the entrance of R. Simeon b. Yohai’s tomb…. He then asked him, “When will the Messiah come?”

    “Go and ask him himself,” was his reply.

    “Where is he sitting?”

    “At the entrance.”

    “And by what sign may I recognize him?”

    “He is sitting among the poor lepers….”

    So he went to him and greeted him, saying, “Peace upon you, Master and Teacher.”

    “Peace upon you, O son of Levi,” he replied.

    ‘When will you come Master?” he asked.

    “Today”, was his answer.

    When he returned to Elijah, the latter enquired, “What did he say to you?”…

    “He spoke falsely to me,” he said, “stating that he would come today, but he has not.”

    He [Elijah] answered him, “This is what he said to you: To-day, if you will hear his voice.”

    Reply
  24. Wendy

    From Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man

    A Lamentation on the Destruction of the Temple

    1. The absence of Presence
    The Romans are approaching. We wallow in callous pettiness. The city will fall soon.
    Desolation.

    2. The presence of Absence
    They are despoiling the sanctuary. We wail in piteous grief. Sun and moon are eclipsed. Horror.

    3. The presence of Presence
    It’s all over now. The dew washes clean our punished world. A lilac is blooming.
    Consolation.

    Copyright © 2013, Jonathan Omer-Man

    Reply
  25. Wendy

    From Rabbi David Seidenberg

    For the ancients, the choices were to believe that the destruction was God’s punishment, or that God simply had no more interest in what happened to them. It is easy to imagine why people would choose a punishing God over an uncaring God – though the latter possibility is suggested in the very last line of the text, “For if you should loathe us” (5:22). (It was also true that the physical downfall of Jerusalem was preceded by a moral downfall, by economic and social oppression.)

    Even though Eikhah sounds like it’s about God punishing us, it is really about the hope against hope that God still cares about what we do and what happens to us. It’s not really a theology of evil, but rather a prayer that awful occurrences prove that God still cares, instead of proving God’s indifference.

    There is however another way to look at the motif of divine punishment. According to Jeremiah, the reason for exile was that Israel had not allowed the land to rest every seven years during her Sabbatical or Shmita year. 490 years without Shmita equals 70 years of exile. However, this idea is found nowhere in Eikhah, where the identification of the people with the land is total.

    What does this mean? The Torah portrays the land as a subject, with interests, rewards, and rights that take priority over our needs. Especially in the laws of the Jubilee and Shmita years (Lev 25)—and in the consequences that are supposed to befall the people if they do not observe these laws (Lev 26)—it is clear that God is ready to take the side of the land of Israel against the Jewish people.

    Humanity as a social order, as a species, and all the more so as a collection of individuals, has no moral standing when its interests conflict with the intrinsic interests of the land, who will “enjoy her Sabbaths” (Lev 26:34,43), even if that means the people are exiled or wiped out. From the divine perspective, the human social order has value or validity only when justice encompasses the land as both a moral subject and a covenantal partner. What has intrinsic value is not humanity but justice, which is humanity’s potential.

    The Torah outlines six curses for not observing the Sabbatical year, which describe how the relationship between the the people and the land can unravel, marked by who eats what or whom.
    The thread of this progression is woven in and out of Leviticus 26, but here is what it looks like when we pull it out: (1) “you will sow your seed for emptiness, for your enemies will eat it” (v.16); (2) you will use your strength for emptiness, and your land will not give her produce” (v.20); (3) “I will send out against you the animal of the field and she will make you childless” (v.22); (4) “you will be gathered (i.e., like a harvest) into your cities…and I will break the staff of bread against you” (v.26); (5) “you will eat the flesh of your sons and your daughters’ flesh you will eat” (v.29); (6) “you will be lost in the nations and the land of your enemies will eat you” (v.38).

    Two of these curses involve children being eaten – first by wild animals and then by their parents. This image is repeated in Eikhah, and it is the strongest connection between the text of Eikhah and the Sabbatical year.

    Because the Jewish people was in exile for so long, the last curse (“the land of your enemies will eat you”) does not sound like the worst. Because we love our children, it is the fifth that sounds the worst. But symbolically, if the land eats us, this represents the final step: a complete reversal of the right relationship between people and land.

    In an age when we have good reason to believe that our ecological “sins” are coming home to roost, the connection between disaster and divine retribution may not seem so farfetched. If we sympathize with this idea, we can read Eikhah as an invitation to change our lives, towards justice for all people, for all species, and for the land herself.

    Reply
  26. Wendy

    From Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan

    Reb Kalman’s Vision

    When every head is ailing, every heart is sick, what words of spiritual comfort are possible? When property is stolen, wounds are left untreated, and social supports worn to a shred, what insight can Jewish traditions offer?

    Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Shapira, writing from Occupied Poland during World War II, wrestled with these questions. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Reb Kalman was an experienced spiritual director, community rabbi, and educator, recently widowed after a long and intimate marriage. In his book on spiritual direction, he had taught that spiritual perception is available to everyone. Imagination, intellect, social intuition, and intense emotion point us daily to possibilities, patterns and insights beyond physical reality. As Reb Kalman lost every member of his immediate family, he allowed his intense emotions of suffering to reveal to him hidden resources in his tradition. For the first time, he heard the heartbroken cries and saw the intimate knowledge of pain expressed in familiar stories and teachings. Those cries pointed him to manifestations of God he confessed he previously knew only abstractly: God’s acceptance of despair, God’s own despair, God’s harsh judgment, the truly terrifying nature of beholding God. From 1939 through 1943, he articulated and shared his insights in weekly sermons.

    On September 1, 1939, Warsaw was invaded by Nazi Germany in a series of blitzkrieg bombings. All of Warsaw’s citizens rose to the challenge, cooperating to defend the city. In his September 16 sermon on Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat immediately before Yom Kippur, Reb Kalman encourages all to rise to the cause. National defense, he implies, is a holy cause. All who are fatally injured will be regarded by heaven as martyrs, and will experience their deaths as uplifting. “When you remember before whom you are being purified then your physical sensations will be nullified,” he writes, or, in other words, “Anyone martyred for the sanctification of God’s name feels no pain at all.”

    On September 23, Warsaw surrendered to Germany. In the eight days between September 16 and September 23, Reb Kalman lost all three members of his immediate family. His son, injured in the bombing, died painfully in a crowded, understaffed hospital. His daughter in law, visiting the injured, died when the hospital was bombed. His mother, overcome with grief at the loss of her two grandchildren, shut down and died.

    In his November 4 sermon during the week of Chayei Sarah, the Torah portion about the death of our ancestral mother Sarah, Reb Kalman speaks symbolically about the death of his own mother. The story of Sarah’s death appears just after the story of Avraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son Yitzchak. Many interpreters say news of the attempted sacrifice caused Sarah’s death, explaining “When Sarah was told…her soul fled, and she died.” Sarah’s soul teaches us a universal lesson about human suffering. We may find suffering unbearable and physically die. We may remain physically alive and yet feel as though “our soul [has] fled.” God knows this and God does not expect us to handle unlimited amounts of anguish.

    In early October 1940, the Nazis announced the mandatory move of local Jews to the Warsaw Ghetto. In his October 24 sermon on Shmini Atzeret[a plaintive day of prayers for fall rain], Reb Kalman concedes that the meaning of his community’s suffering seems to be hidden. But he believes that it will be revealed. He plays on the meanings of the Hebrew word din. Din can mean “decree,” as in the decree that created the ghetto. Din also refers to “divine judgment,” the power of God to make rules and enforce them according to a plan. Din, says Reb Kalman, is a tremendous revelation of God. God will come through with the established plan. However, until one can see the meaning of the plan, God’s din appears as harsh punishment. In Egypt thousands of years ago, the Israelites suffered under Pharaoh’s decrees. They could not see what we know now: their deep suffering as slaves signaled the eve of the planned redemption. Redemption is also the plan for the Jews of Poland – may it come quickly!

    On November 16, the ghetto was sealed. For the next twenty months, the ghetto population swelled, food rations were cut, slave labor opportunities diminished, children and adults died daily from starvation and typhus – and ghetto inmates maintained, as best they could, a cultural and communal life. Mass execution of Jews had begun, but residents of the Warsaw Ghetto did not know.

    In his March 14 1942 sermon for Parshat HaChodesh [first Shabbat of Nissan, the month of Passover, celebration of freedom], Reb Kalman urged ghetto residents to come together in community. No one should feel he or she has to bear suffering alone. Yes, God seems hidden. God has retired, as Talmud teaches, to the inner chambers of heaven to weep for humanity. We too can enter those hidden, spiritually charged chambers of sorrow – if we do it together. Despair experienced alone is simply brokenness. When broken people join together in a community of mutual support, weeping together is a holy activity.

    On July 18, 1942, Shabbat Chazon, Reb Kalman spoke about the difficulty of vision. Only a few years ago, says Reb Kalman, we would read about the destruction of Jerusalem. We were moved, we cried, we felt we knew the sufferings of our ancestors. Now we know how little we understood. Our sages taught that there are ten levels of prophecy, and that vision is the harshest of them all. Now we understand this teaching. Now we are actually seeing the suffering described by the prophet Isaiah. Our sage Ulla said, “Let the Messiah come, I will not see it!” Now we understand his meaning. Even our sages did not want to witness “the birth pangs of the Messiah” — the pain that precedes redemption. Our pain must be the birthing contractions of the Messiah.

    Four days later the Nazis began the operation that came to be called the “Great Deportation” from the Warsaw Ghetto. Ninety percent of the ghetto’s population – 300,000 people – were rounded up and deported to the execution center at Treblinka. Reb Kalman – along with other writers — buried his sermons in a milk can and asked that whoever finds them send them to Israel. The ghetto’s remaining 30,000 residents organized for resistance. In response, Nazi troops burned down the ghetto in May 1943. All survivors, including Reb Kalman, were arrested. He died in the Trawniki labor camp a few months later.

    Had Reb Kalman lived only five years longer, he would have lived to see the birth of the modern state of Israel. And he would have believed that he and others were midwives, maybe even mothers, during the terrible, troubled birth of the Messiah. Many died in this childbirth, and he would not have glorified their deaths. Nor would he have expected the birth and maturation of a nation to be easy and free of ethical and logistical mistakes. He would have seen with his steady, spiritual vision, revealing the pain and compassion in all of life’s passages.

    Sources: Nehemia Polen, The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto (Jason Aronson, 1998); Conscious Community: A Guide to Inner Work (Jason Aronson, 1996), an interpretive translation by Andrea Cohen-Kiener of Reb Kalman’s Bnei Machshavah Tovah; Rabbi Klonimus Kalmish of Piasetzna, Aish Kodesh [Hebrew] (Vaad Chasidei Piasetzna); Rabbi Kalonymos Kalmish Shapira, Sacred Fire: Torah from the Years of Fury 1939-1942, translated by J. Hershy Worch (Jason Aronson, 2002); Zivia Lubetkin. In the Days of Destruction and Revolt (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad: Am Oved Publishing House, 1981); Zvika Dror, The Dream, the Revolt, The Vow (Kibbutz Lochamei Hagettaot Institute for Rememberence of the Holocaust and Revolt, 1983); Yitzchak Zuckerman, A Surplus of Memory: Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (University of California Press, 1993); Wladyslav Bartozewski, The Warsaw Ghetto: A Christian’s Testimony, trans. Stephen G. Capillari (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987); Israel Gutman, Resistance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Mariner Books, 1998).

    Reply
  27. Wendy

    From Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

    Entering Av
    Posted: 05 Aug 2016 08:47 AM PDT
    This isn’t so much a “d’var Torah” as a “d’var calendar” — the text I’m exploring this morning is the unfolding of our calendrical year.

    On Friday, just before Shabbat, we entered into the lunar month of Av. Av contains the low point on our communal calendar: Tisha b’Av. Tisha b’Av is the day when we remember the destruction of the first Temple by Babylon in 586 BCE, the destruction of the second Temple by Rome in 70 CE, and countless other tragedies that have happened at this season in other years, from the beginning of the first Crusade, to the expulsion from the Warsaw Ghetto and the mass extermination that followed.

    Tisha b’Av is a day for confronting brokenness. The brokenness of the world. The brokenness of our hearts. And yet tradition teaches that on the afternoon of Tisha b’Av, moshiach will be born. The beginnings of our redemption arise from this very darkest of places. It’s a little bit like the Greek myth of Pandora who opened the box containing war and destruction and famine and all manner of awful things — and at the bottom of the box, found hope. A tiny spark of light to counter the darkness.

    It’s the height of our beautiful Berkshire summer. Why would we choose, as we move into Av, to delve into grief? Because if we don’t let ourselves feel what hurts, we can’t move beyond it. If we don’t let ourselves acknowledge what’s broken, we can’t mend. If we don’t let ourselves acknowledge what feels damaged, we can’t begin to repair it. Brokenness is part of the human condition, and the only way to transcend it is to let ourselves feel it fully. Feeling what hurts is the first step toward healing the hurt we feel.

    According to the Mishna, on Tisha b’Av we mourn not only that long list of historical calamities, but also a psychospiritual one: the time when the scouts went into the Promised Land, and became afraid of what they saw, and returned to the children of Israel and said “we can’t go there, those people are giants, we must have looked to them like grasshoppers.” Av is a time for remembering how we diminish ourselves when we let go of faith for a better future and let our fear rule us instead.

    Why would we want to look at the times when we’ve been afraid? Why would we want to examine our own complicity in the cycles of brokenness that are a part of every human life — how we keep bringing ourselves, over and over, back to the same issues, the same fears, the same hurts? Because in that examining, we strengthen our power to make different choices. We don’t have to repeat the mistake the scouts made. We don’t have to repeat our own mistakes. We can make teshuvah — we can turn.

    Rabbi Alan Lew writes,

    Tisha b’Av is the moment of turning, the moment when we turn away from denial and begin to face exile and alienation as they manifest themselves in our own lives — in our alienation and estrangement from God, in our alienation from ourselves and from others.

    This new lunar month invites us to recognize that our constructs — the narratives we’ve inherited or built to tell us who we are — are just that: constructed. And like everything else in this world of entropy, they fall apart. When our constructs are shattered, we feel shattered, too. But Tisha b’Av comes to teach us that even when the walls crumble, even when the Temple is destroyed, even when our constructs shatter and we feel adrift, something more lasting than all of these persists in us.

    You can call that something “God.” You can call that something “Love.” You can call that something “Transformation.”

    Av is our month of greatest sorrow — and in that greatest sorrow, we find an opening to joy. In facing what’s falling down, we find a way for our spirits to rise up. In facing our fear and our complicity in succumbing to that fear, we find an opening into a future of promise. In facing our feelings of helplessness, we find strength. In facing the darkness, we find light. Kein yehi ratzon.

    Reply
  28. Wendy

    From Rabbi Diane Elliot
    Tisha B’Av Teaching
    Compassionate Conversations Retreat
    August 13 2016 ~ 9-10 Av 5776

    The 9th of the month of Av is a national day of mourning for the Jewish people. On it the Jews fast from before sunset to well after sunset the next day. Some sit on the floor, barefoot, in somber clothes, chanting by candlelight the Book of Lamentations, praying and wailing kinot, poems of grief.

    We mourn the fall of the First Jerusalem Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians on the 9th of Av in 586 BCE. And we mourn the fall of the Second Jerusalem Temple at the hands of the Romans on the 9th of Av in 70 CE. We also mourn later catastrophes that befell our people on or near this date—the beginning of the First Crusade in the 11th century, the expulsion of Jews from England in the 13th century and from Spain in the 15th, the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto in the 20th century. The Book of Lamentations, chanted on the eve of Tisha B’Av, is traditionally attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, whose life spanned the end of the Judean monarchy, the destruction of the First Jerusalem Temple, the murder and starvation of many of the people, and the exile of the Judean elite to Babylonia.

    Why do Jews take as primary touchstones for our collective grief, events that transpired more than 2,000 years ago? Despite all that can be said about the political corruption and the deadness of the ancient Israelite Temple cults, based as they were on animal sacrifices, psycho-spiritually, the Temple—and specifically the Holy of Holies—was for Jews the axis mundi, the heart of the world. It was the place where the priests could hold open a portal between the material world and the invisible realms beyond earthly existence, beyond time and space, to create a channel through which Divine, life-force energy might flow into and vivify the world. With the devastation of the Temple by conquering forces, accompanied horrible violence, starvation, slaughter, and humiliation, Jews became exiles, not only from their land, but from their G-d, from connection with the core of life. Only gradually, through the centuries, with the guidance of revolutionary rabbinic sages, did people learn how to use the practice mitzvot, acts of lovingkindness and justice, home-based rituals, and personal and communal prayer to hold open the channel for the Divine in our hearts.

    At this time of year, we also mourn our own failings, the ways that we ourselves occlude the channels of connection. The rabbinic Sages taught that the First Temple (in Hebrew the term is Beit Ha-Mikdash, “House of Holiness”) was destroyed because of three sins of that generation: idolatry, forbidden relationships, and murder; while the Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred among the people; because they did not admonish one another—give constructive criticism; because they shamed scholars, didn’t differentiate between great and small; because they lacked men of strong faith, and because they based their judgments on a strict interpretation of Torah law, and would not make concessions to one another.

    Perhaps it’s challenging for us to posit such causality between our actions, the way we conduct our business and our relationships, the way we fall short of our highest ideals, and the devastation of our own holy Temples—our bodies, our communities, our social structures, our beautiful and threatened planet, this Earth. And yet….

    What might the deeper spiritual lessons for all of us of this challenging time in the Jewish ritual year, in these challenging times in our world? Rabbi Alan Lew z”l, who spent many years as a Zen practitioner before studying for the rabbinate, wrote this: “…the walls of our great house are crumbling all the time, and not just in midsummer at Tisha B’Av, when we mourn the destruction of the Temple. Every moment of our lives, the sacred house of our life—the constructs by which we live and to which we hold on so fiercely—nevertheless falls away. Every moment we take in a breath and the world comes into being, and then we let out a breath and the world falls away. Every moment, we experience what we take to be death, loss, and failure. When we become aware that this is happening, we feel dislocated, uprooted, filled with sorrow and anxiety. We feel estranged from our own lives, and we realize how much these constructs have been keeping us from the reality of our lives—how we have been using them to give us distance from the gnawing suspicion that we have no house—that we are afloat in a great sea of being, an endless flow of becoming in which we are connected to all beings. The great journey of transformation begins with the acknowledgment that we need to make it. If is not something we are undertaking for amusement, nor even for the sake of convention; rather, it is a spiritual necessity.”

    And why the need to mourn? Why the necessity to grieve these losses, to make space to grieve our losses—together? The therapist and spiritual teacher Miriam Greenspan speaks about what she calls the alchemy of the dark emotions. Grief, fear, despair…”we struggle with our inability,” Greenspan writes, “to authentically and mindfully feel” these so-called negative emotions, “to tolerate painful emotional energies and use these energies for emotional, spiritual, and social transformation.” When we fail to mourn, to digest our losses, the accumulation of such undigested pain can clog our spiritual arteries, disconnecting us from our practices, our close beloveds, our communities, from the very streams of life itself.

    I experience the act of mourning, held skillfully and with deepest respect, as ultimately freeing. When the walls of the bayit, the house of habit and false comfort, crumble, we’re given a broader vista, a wider perspective. We can perhaps hold some of the situations that rip at our hearts—and there are so many in our world right now—with more tenderness, more compassion. We can begin to restore the flow of life, the sense in inter-connectedness with all, that allows us to live

    What is true for you here, tonight? What do you need to mourn? What has narrowed in you, what is impinging on you? What might we need to mourn collectively? What of our own inner turmoil is now being manifested in the world? Where have we fallen into forgetfulness, habitual patterns of moving through life that hold us in place, keep us stuck? Which of our formerly holy places have become void of meaning, places of forgetfulness and deadness, rather than of inspiration and transformation?

    What needs to shatter, what walls need to fall, in order for us to come to our senses, to free up our life force, our vitality, into order to make ourselves available to help birth new forms, new protocols, new ways—to ease pain, to implant the justice, the care that will enliven and sustain our planet and those that life upon it?
    Can we breathe together?
    Can we allow ourselves to feel?
    Can we support one another in holding whatever grief is present?

    Reply
  29. Wendy

    From Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

    Days of closeness, days when God feels far away

    The Jewish calendar is filled with moadim. Usually that word is translated as “festivals,” though it literally means “appointed times.” Each year we have moadim of closeness to God, and also moadim of distance from God. The Days of Awe and Sukkot are moadei shel keruv, appointed-times of closeness with God. The Three Weeks and Tisha b’Av are moadei shel richuk, appointed-times of distance from God.

    That teaching comes from R’ Shlomo Wolbe, whose work Alei Shur I studied recently with R’ Jeff Fox as part of a week of “Rabbi (and Hazzan) Recharge” organized by The Jewish Studio. With R’ Jeff we also studied a text from R’ Shmuel Eidels (a.k.a. the Maharsha) that speaks of the Three Weeks as a period of growth toward fruition. Just as it takes 21 days for an almond tree to blossom, says the Maharsha, so we can understand the 21 days between 17 Tammuz and Tisha b’Av as a period of preparing for flowering-forth.

    I don’t usually think of Tisha b’Av — that date of destruction and shattering — as a time of fruition or flowering. But the Alei Shur reminds us that it is natural (maybe even good?) for our relationships with the Holy One of Blessing to have an ebb and a flow, to have times of intimacy and times of distance. (Indeed: distance is often what awakens in our hearts our yearning to reconnect.) And from the Maharsha we learn that even destruction can have a silver lining, and can spark the blossoming of something new.

    Today is the 17th of Tammuz, the beginning of the period known as The Three Weeks (also called Bein Ha-Meitzarim, “In the Narrow Places.”) Today is the anniversary of the ancient breach of Jerusalem’s city walls, and the anniversary of the date when Moshe broke the first set of tablets in anger and sorrow at the people’s misdeeds. In three weeks, on Tisha b’Av, we’ll re-experience the destruction of the Temples, our people’s quintessential experience of shattering and distance from our Source.

    In the Alei Shur’s language, these weeks are a moed of distance. They’re balanced by the three weeks from Rosh Hashanah to Shemini Atzeret, a moed of closeness and drawing-near. Our calendar gives us three bitter weeks, and three sweet ones… and we need to experience them both. The soul gets “out of whack” otherwise. It’s not healthy to marinate only in sorrow all year long, or to allow ourselves only to feel joy all year long. Both of those extremes are spiritually damaging. We need the both / and.

    What does it mean to say that this is an appointed-time of distance from God? For me, it’s an opportunity to notice where and when and how I already feel that distance. Maybe my sorrows are causing me to feel distant from God: maybe I’m grieving so hard I can’t find God. Or maybe my joys are serving that function this year, if I let myself fall into the trap of spiritual bypassing — maybe I’m over-focusing on the positive so I don’t have to face what’s difficult in my life. Either way, distance from God ensues.

    The Alei Shur teaches that distance from God isn’t, in and of itself, the worst thing. (Far worse is when we have fallen so out of alignment that we no longer even notice the distance.) He sees the distance as part of a natural cycle of being close and being far away — a ratzo v’shov, as it were. When I notice that I’m distant from a beloved, and let my heart feel the ache of that distance, the ache impels me to reach out and be close to my loved one again. As with a human beloved, so with the divine Beloved.

    Where do you feel distant: from your beloveds, from the Beloved, from your traditions, from your Source? What are the patterns and habits that contribute to that distance? What are the excuses you make to yourself for why it’s okay to be disconnected, and what feels “at stake” when you imagine reconnecting — what are you afraid of when you imagine letting yourself reconnect?

    Today we remember the first breach in Jerusalem’s ancient city walls. Where is your heart cracked-open? In what realms do you feel broken-hearted? How do you deal with the vulnerability of being fragile and breakable? What seeds might be planted in your broken places, that over these three weeks could be silently preparing themselves (preparing you) to flower into something new?

    Reply
  30. Wendy

    From Rabbi Simon Jacobson

    Three Weeks of Pain, Seven of Comfort, & Two of Return

    Religion, economy, our basic security – all our existing infrastructures are undergoing an unprecedented reality check – tremors that will surely change the universe in which we live.
    As we enter the second week of the traditional Three Week mourning period, when we grieve the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem – life around us seems to be tragically reflecting this sad time period.
    This three week period is one that exposes the cracks in our universe. Cracks in our systems shake us up; but a crack also exposes what lies within. We can be demoralized by the cracks or we can attempt to look between the cracks and see an emerging larger picture.
    We are now directly experiencing a crack in the continuum of history, one that can catapult us into a completely new awareness and raise our consciousness to a completely new level.
    To understand the deeper meaning of these weeks – and glean from them a system how to heal, grow and rebuild our lives – allow me to cite a discourse of the great Chassid Reb Hillel of Paritch (1795-1864) in which he explains the deeper significance of the “three weeks of rebuke, seven of consolation, two of return.”
    The Kabbalah teaches that the Three Weeks manifest the concealment of the three intellectual faculties (Chochma, Binah, Daat). The following Seven Weeks express the revelation of the intellect of Atik Yomin (lit. ‘ancient days,’ referring to the higher dimension of Ketter, the crown – the highest Divine revelation) in the seven emotions. And the Two Weeks of Return is the elevation of Malchut achieved through the two levels of teshuvah (‘higher teshuvah’ and ‘lower teshuvah’) that elevates from Biy”a (Beriah, Yetzirah, Asiyah). This is followed by Yom Kippur, when the Second Tablets were given, the revelation of the intellect of Atik Yomin into Biy”a. Followed by Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, when the revelation of Yom Kippur is revealed in great joy.
    If you had problems understanding the last paragraph, don’t be forlorn; most of us have the same difficulty. That is why we need Chassidus to explain the cryptic language of Kabbalah. Reb Hillel explains it with an analogy of a teacher and student (which is the classical and best example to explain the relationship between the Divine and the mundane).
    The conventional transmission of knowledge from teacher to student is a seamless process. It does not require a special effort. However, when the teacher (out of his deep love to the student) wants to convey an entirely new concept – one that is beyond anything yet revealed – he needs to collect his thoughts, return into the deepest recesses of his mind until he is ready to being transmitting the new concept.
    During the process of reflection, the teacher will suspend his transmission teacher to the student, while he gathers his thoughts. The deeper he goes into his own mind, the more he immerses into the new concept, the deeper will be his silence.
    From the student’s perspective this silence can be perceived as a disconnection. He can even think that the teacher has abandoned him. In truth what is happening is that the teacher is connecting ever more with the student. His silence actually reflects a deeper bond with the student; this silence is giving birth to an unprecedented new concept that will afterwards be conveyed to the student.
    Reb Hillel explains, that the Three Weeks reflect a cosmic silence that progresses from week to week. The Three Weeks begin with the 17th of Tammuz, the day when Moses broke the Two Tablets when he saw that the people had built the Golden Calf, 40 days after he received the Tablets with the Ten Commandments at Sinai.
    On the surface, the broken Tablets are a tragic events and the 17th of Tammuz is the beginning of the saddest time of the year. Yet, following that day Moses returned to Sinai to beseech G-d to forgive the people. His efforts would take 80 days, but at the end of that period Moses would prevail and return on Yom Kippur with the second set of Tablets.
    The Second Tablets are in many ways far greater than the first. They revealed an entirely new ‘concept’ and introduced an unprecedented new energy into existence. This new ‘concept’ and energy is born in the Three Weeks (the first three weeks of Moses prayer on Sinai).* During these weeks Moses was on Sinai, the people below experienced only silence. But above a birthing was take place.
    As the Three Weeks progress the silence deepens. The people feel that perhaps they will not be forgiven. The siege over Jerusalem intensifies from day to day, until we reach Tisha B’Av at the end of the Three Weeks, which is the saddest day of all, when the Temples are destroyed. Traditionally the mourning intensifies as these weeks pass and reach closer to Tisha B’Av.
    In week one the first intellectual faculty (Chochma) is concealed. Though the ‘teacher’ is retreating into his mind to generate the new ‘concept,’ he still can maintain some form of superficial communication with the student. In week two the concealment progresses into the dimension of Binah (understanding). Finally, in week three all levels of intellect are concealed, including the third faculty of Daat (knowledge).
    Yet as the silence deepens, the new ‘concept’ is developing further and reaching new heights. The greater the silence, the greater the revelation.
    Even during this silence, if we look close enough we can detect a glow on the face of the teacher as he experiences the new revelation.
    This glow, this aura expresses itself in the seven emotions of the teacher – and they in turn comfort us (the student) in the Seven Weeks of Consolation. In each of the seven weeks we are increasingly comforted as we progressively connect to the ‘glowing’ seven emotions of the teacher (as will be discussed in detail in future essays).
    The Seven Weeks of Consolation are meant to motivate and prepare us for the work we must do to receive the new revelation birthed in the Three Weeks. This work entails teshuvah: In order to grow and be receptive to a new perspective, we must suspend our old perspectives and free ourselves from our old patterns of behavior. This teshuvah has two steps – the Two Weeks of Teshuvah, which allows us to finally receive the new revelation of the Second Tablets on Yom Kippur. After all this work we are finally ready to celebrate our reception of the new ‘concept.’ And celebrate we do on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
    This in brief is a synopsis of Reb Hillel’s fascinating discourse, which apparently is based on the teachings of his teacher, the Tzemach Tzedek.
    I don’t know about you, but I find that this explanation provides us with a brilliant formula to cope with our challenges today.
    We now stand in the second of the Three Weeks – the week of Binah. Families torn apart by recent violence seem to be experiencing a deep silence. And we all grieve with them. When we think about it (or even when we don’t) we are all living in a long shadow of uncertainty, and the gloom seems to be deepening.
    “Where is G-d in all of this?” many of us are asking. Why is G-d silent?
    Will we get through this, and more importantly how will we?
    These and so many fundamental questions asked today are answered by the system that teaches us how to deal with loss, how to be comforted and how to rebuild a new world.
    Even as we experience great loss, we also witness – and are comforted by – noble heroism and the majesty of the human spirit – perhaps a manifestation of the seven ‘glowing’ emotions.
    Even as we hear silence, we must realize that a great new revelation is being born. And we are privileged to be part of it. We are blessed to help precipitate a new era – when materialism will be not an end in itself, but a means to spirituality – to a world whose entire occupation will be to know the Divine, to perceive in all of existence the sublime energy within, the ‘hand inside the glove;’ a “world filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea.”
    But to do so, we must first be cognizant of the tenuousness of the material world (as an end to itself). We must grieve for our losses, stand in awe of the silence and recognize the cracks that have opened up in our existing infrastructures. Then we must be comforted by the knowledge and the trust in G-d’s promise, that the ‘destruction’ of a previous state allows for the birth of a new one. That the cracks around us reveal a deeper truth. And finally, we must acclimate ourselves to the deeper truth. We must free ourselves – through teshuvah – from our subjective pasts and our hardened habits, and realign our lives to a greater vision of new horizons.
    May we use these weeks well to align our lives to the healthy cosmic rhythms of time – the rhythms that reflect the inner patterns of life and inner forces that make existence tick.
    May we do our part to prepare ourselves and the world to finally receive and experience the new revelation: the rebuilding of the Third and eternal Temple, the final and eternal Redemption. After the long silence, it’s about time.
    ———-
    *) Aryeh (lion) – the Mazal (sign) of the month of Av – is an acronym of Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabbah. Av gives birth to the success of Moses prayers beginning in Elul (when Moses ascends Sinai for the third and final time), through Rosh Hashana, finally prevailing on Yom Kippur, and consummated and celebrated on Hoshana Rabbah.

    A Different Commentary by Rabbi Jacobson

    The Laugh

    https://www.meaningfullife.com/the-laugh/?utm_source=Meaningful+Life+Center&utm_campaign=f31c7d65e9-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_21&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bcb4308af-f31c7d65e9-82293597&ct=t(WN_Matot_Massei_7_20_20177_20_2017)&goal=0_0bcb4308af-f31c7d65e9-82293597&mc_cid=f31c7d65e9&mc_eid=7d728a0a23

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  31. Wendy

    From David Zaslow

    Grief
    by David Zaslow
    I tend to think of grief
    As something I have
    Like a cold or cough
    That with some remedy
    goes away.
    But not today.
    On Tisha B’av
    I see that grief
    Neither comes
    Nor goes.
    Rather, it is the precondition
    For life itself
    As darkness is for light
    As you were
    50 years ago
    When you walked away from me.
    Grief is the field
    Upon which whatever
    Light I have may shine.

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  32. Wendy

    From the American Jewish World Service

    On Tisha B’Av, Connection Conquers Hate
    By Rabbi Justin Goldstein

    Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, is the major day of communal mourning in the Jewish calendar. This date commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. and 70 C.E., as well as a large number of other disasters said to have befallen the Jews on this date throughout history.

    The rabbis of the Talmud blamed these tragedies on sinat chinam—baseless hatred. They tell an elaborate tale of two enemies, Kamtza and bar Kamtza, whose feud over a small matter ultimately boils over and ignites the war between the Jews and the Romans that felled the first Temple.

    It’s often simple to diagnose the cause of such hatred but finding solutions can be much more complicated. How can enemies put aside their grievances? And how can we prevent the wide chasms between people that so plague our world today?

    I believe one answer can be found in a mitzvah commanded among a litany of civil laws in the Book of Exodus. The Torah teaches: “If you see a donkey of someone you hate struggling with its burden, and you are hesitant to help that person—you must help that person.” 1

    On the surface, this may seem to be a law about common decency—if you see someone in trouble, you’re obligated to help. However, the ancient rabbis of the Jewish tradition tell a story that shows that this law has a much deeper effect—both on the helper and the person being helped. In a midrash, a folkloric teaching inspired by the text of the Torah, the rabbis taught:

    Two donkey-drivers who hated one another were walking on a road. One of the donkeys collapsed, and the other donkey-driver just passed by seeing that it had collapsed under its burden. The second donkey-driver said: Is it not written in the Torah, “If you see a donkey of someone you hate struggling with its burden, and you are hesitant to help that person—you must help that person”? What did the second donkey-driver do? He turned back to help the other man reload his donkey, and then accompanied him on the way. One began to converse with the other, and helped loosen here, lift up there, tighten here, until he reloaded the animal with him. They found that they had made peace between themselves. The one whose donkey was struggling said to himself: “I never understood why this person hated me! See how compassionate he was with me when he saw my donkey and me in distress!” At this point, they went into an inn and ate and drank together, and they grew to love one another. 2

    At the heart of this story is a powerful word that stands out in the text because it’s typically used in a very different context. The text says that one driver “accompanied” the other the driver—melaveyhu, from the word livuyi. In Jewish tradition this term is most closely associated with funerals, levaya, the moment when we honor the deceased by accompanying the body to the gravesite. This accompaniment is seen as the ultimate act of kindness because the deceased can never return the favor.

    The story of the donkey drivers makes it clear that accompaniment is also a powerful antidote to sinat chinam—with the capacity to turn enemies into friends. It’s still surprising, though, to see that in another midrash this honor and kindness is extended to the archetypal biblical enemy: Pharaoh. The rabbinic collection of Torah commentary called Midrash Tanchumah describes the moment when Pharaoh sent the Israelites out from Egypt as akin to a funeral procession for Pharaoh.3 Imagine that, in the moment of their own liberation, the Israelites are depicted as extending the archetypical form of honor and kindness to their oppressors.

    Viewed in light of the donkey drivers, this is also a gesture of repair. Reading this midrash, we can understand the redemptive power of accompaniment—that when we open our eyes, minds and hearts to truly see another person, it allows for a person to right past wrongs. This midrash is offering a radical re-read of the plain meaning of the text, where Pharaoh’s sending off of the Israelites is a last minute impulsive act by a frustrated dictator. In pushing us to offer accompaniment even to those with whom we completely disagree and may have wronged us in the past, the midrash is implicitly relying on a rabbinic argument called kal v’chomer. If we see the merit of accompanying those who are our enemies, all the more so must we accompany our friends and allies.

    Dr. Paul Farmer, professor of public health at Harvard University and co-founder of the human rights organization Partners in Health, teaches about the power of this kind of accompaniment for those we seek to help in our work to promote human rights. He says: “To accompany someone is to go somewhere with him or her, to break bread together, to be present on a journey with a beginning and an end…I’ll share your fate for a while, and by ‘a while’ I don’t mean ‘a little while.’”

    Farmer came up with this term (adapted from Haitian creole) to show that doctors working in poor communities must address patients’ social and economic challenges alongside their core medical needs.4 And AJWS uses this model of accompaniment in its grantmaking. In addition to providing financial support to human rights activists and organizations, AJWS also supports them in other ways, from offering trainings to their staff to creating opportunities to network with other organizations in their countries and worldwide.

    Accompaniment is a powerful process through which we work side-by-side with others. Accompaniment gives us the opportunity to be present and seek dignity for others—to recognize and protect their humanity.

    Many centuries before the United Nations ratified into its Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” the Torah declared that every human is created in the divine image and thus must be treated with respect. If we live our lives in service of this value, perhaps we can overcome the hatred that caused the destruction we mourn on Tisha B’Av. Accompanying one another in this way, we can build a more just and equitable world together.

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  33. Aryae Coopersmith

    Listening to the Prophetic Voice
    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

    Tisha b’Av 5778


    At this time, as we recall the destruction of our two Temples, we read three of the most searing passages in prophetic literature, from the beginnings of Jeremiah and Isaiah.

    Perhaps this is the only time of the year when we are so acutely aware of the enduring force of Israel’s great visionaries. The prophets had no power. They were not kings or members of the royal court. They were (usually) not priests or members of the religious establishment and they held no office. Often they were deeply unpopular, none more so than Jeremiah, who was arrested, flogged, abused, put on trial and only narrowly escaped with his life. Only rarely were the prophets heeded in their lifetimes: Jonah for example, and he spoke to non-Jews, the citizens of Nineveh. Yet their words were recorded for posterity and became a major feature of Tanach. They were the world’s first social critics and their message continues through the centuries. To paraphrase Kierkegaard: when a king dies, his power ends; when a prophet dies his influence begins.[1]

    The prophet was distinctive not because he (or she – there were seven biblical prophetesses) foretold the future. The ancient world was full of people who claimed to know the forces that govern fate and “shape our ends, rough-hew them how we will.” Judaism has no time for such people. The Torah bans one “who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead” (Deut. 18: 10-11). It disbelieves such practices because it believes in human freedom. The future is not pre-scripted. The prophet warns – not predicts – of the future that will happen if we do not heed the danger and mend our ways. The future depends on us and the choices we make.

    Nor was the prophet distinctive in blessing or cursing the people. In Judaism, blessing comes through priests not prophets.

    Several things made the prophets unique. The first was their sense of history. The prophets were the first people to see God in history. We tend to take our sense of time for granted. Time flows. As the saying goes, time is God’s way of keeping everything from happening at once. But actually there are several ways of relating to time and different civilizations have perceived it differently.

    There is cyclical time: time as the slow turning of the seasons, or the cycle of birth, growth, decline and death. Cyclical time is time as it occurs in nature. All that lives, dies. The species endures, individual members do not. Kohelet contains the most famous expression of cyclical time: “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course … What has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

    Then there is linear time: time as an inexorable sequence of cause and effect. As French astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace said in 1814: If you “know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed,” together with all the laws of physics and chemistry, then “nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present” before your eyes. Karl Marx applied this idea to society and history. It is known as historical inevitability, and when transferred to human affairs it amounts to a massive denial of personal freedom.

    Finally, there is time as a mere sequence of events with no underlying plot or theme. This leads to the kind of writing pioneered by Herodotus and Thucydides, scholars of ancient Greece.

    Each of these concepts has its place, but none was time as the prophets understood it. The prophets saw time as the arena in which God and humanity played out the great drama of life, especially in the history of Israel. If Israel was faithful to its mission, it would flourish. If it was unfaithful it would fail. It would suffer defeat and exile. That was Jeremiah’s tireless – and timeless – message.

    The second prophetic insight was the unbreakable connection between monotheism and morality. Somehow the prophets sensed that idolatry was not just false but corrupting. It saw the universe as a multiplicity of oft-clashing powers. Might defeating right. The fittest surviving while the weak perish. Nietzsche believed this, as did the social Darwinists.

    Their third great insight was the primacy of ethics over politics. The prophets have surprisingly little to say about politics. Yes, Samuel was wary of monarchy but we find almost nothing in Isaiah or Jeremiah about the way Israel/Judah should be governed. Instead we hear a constant insistence that the strength of the nation is not military or demographic but moral and spiritual. If the people keep faith with God and one another, no force on earth can defeat them. If they do not, no force can save them.

    Jeremiah, the most passionate and tormented of all the prophets, has gone down in history as the prophet of doom. Yet this is unfair. He was also supremely a prophet of hope. He is the man who said that the people of Israel will be as eternal as the sun, moon and stars (Jer. 31). He is the man who, while the Babylonians were laying siege to Jerusalem, bought a field as a public gesture of faith that Jews would return from exile: “For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land” (Jer. 32).

    Jeremiah’s feelings of doom and hope were not in conflict: they were two sides of the same coin. The God who sentenced His people to exile would be the God who brought them back, for though His people might forsake Him, He would never forsake them. Jeremiah may have lost faith in people; he never lost faith in God.

    Prophecy ceased in the Second Temple era. But the prophetic truths are eternal. Only by being faithful to God do we stay faithful to one another. Only by understanding the deep forces that shape history can we defeat the ravages of history. Only by being open to a power greater than ourselves can we become greater than ourselves. It took a long time for biblical Israel to learn these truths. We must never forget them again.

    Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a tzom kal, an easy fast.

    [1] Kierkegaard actually said: “The tyrant dies and his rule is over; the martyr dies and his rule begins.” Papers and Journals, 352.

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