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.

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

  1. Wendy Berk

    From Rabbi Mel Gottlieb

    Tisha B’Av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Not only were the two Holy Temples destroyed, but throughout history many tragedies occurred on this day. Throughout history, it has not only been observed as a day of humiliation, but also regarded as a day of hope. Tradition teaches that on the day of Tisha B’Av the Messiah is born. So, the purpose of this fast day is to direct ourselves to the causes attributed to these terrible disasters and to transform ourselves to the creation of a reality worthy of the Messianic realm. Let us examine some steps that we may take to create this new reality, which is always potentially accessible.

    On every fast day we are given the charge: “Va’aneetem et nafshoteichem” typically translated as a need ‘to afflict our souls on that day.’ But the word (‘Va’aneetem’) usually translated as ‘AFFLICT’ can also mean ‘ANSWER.’ So Tisha B’av can also be a call to ANSWER the call of our SOUL. Our souls know how to bring out the best of our deepest spiritual potentials, and it is our duty on this day to make the time to listen to our souls!

    We read the book of Lamentations (Eicha) Saturday night, attributed to our Prophet Jeremiah, as he walked through the streets of Jerusalem, lamenting the pain and suffering in the wake of the Babylonian invasion of 586 BCE. The book begins with the words, “HOW lonely sits the City..that was full of people.” The word ‘HOW’ (EICHA) contains the same letters as the word ‘AYEKA’ which means ‘WHERE ARE YOU?’, as G-d asks of Adam in the garden (Genesis, 3:9). Where are you in relation to yourself, to your potential as not yet fulfilled? Pay attention, this is a time to reflect and awaken to the ‘Call of your Soul,’ to contribute to the world’s transformation. (It is important to also recognize that Jeremiah does not give up hope in our ability to fulfill our ‘calling’ with the help of G-d, as he says in Lamentations, Chapter 3:21-25, ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we will not be consumed, for G-d’s compassion will never fail….The Lord is good to those who hope in the Lord, to those who seek the Lord in truth, G-d’s tender mercies will be renewed every morning’).

    Let us look at the main reasons that our Sages attribute to the destruction of both Holy Temples from the words in the Talmud.

    “Why was the first Mikdash destroyed in 586 BCE? Because during its period there were three sins; Idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed. But regarding the period of the second Mikdash 70 CE, we know that they studied Torah, they performed the mitzvot, and did kind deeds– why was it destroyed? Because there was baseless hatred (Sinat Chinam) among them! This teaches us that baseless hatred is equivalent to the three sins of idolatry, immorality and bloodshed (Yoma 9B).” This type of hatred is illustrated in another place in the Talmud (and related by Josephus) in the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. Anyone who studies the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza is shocked by the extreme hatred that drove the host of the banquet to forcibly evict his enemy, Bar Kamtza, in full view of the entire community despite Bar Kamtza’s pleas to be allowed to stay and his offer to pay the cost of the entire affair. This, according to our Sages, is symptomatic of the disease of Sinat Chinam that was widespread among the people during that time (Gittin,55B,57A).

    How astounding that during the second Temple period the Talmud says that the people were steeped in Torah study, they performed mitzvot, and they did kind deeds to their fellows, and yet these helpful Jews were guilty of Baseless Hatred! Such is our complexity! The same heart that can genuinely love some people can simultaneously harbor unwarranted hatred towards other people (‘The Opposites’). This hatred is so poisonous that it can lead to the destruction of a whole community. Today we are still afflicted with this insidious proclivity. We see the symptom throughout our communities and throughout the world. In our interaction with others, rather than expressing our opinions, our deeply felt truths, as JUST OUR OWN opinions, and making room for the opinions of others, we express our ‘truths’ as THE ONLY TRUTH which leads to animosity and Baseless Hatred of the other. We must become more aware of our behavior and rectify it. Our Sages were so sensitive to this egregious behavior that they stated that even ‘ Not speaking with someone’ because of ill will is considered ‘Baseless Hatred’ (Sanhedrin, 27B). Avoiding someone because of resentment, even without displaying strong hatred is Sinat Chinam! We must make efforts to express our feelings directly, honestly, and humbly so as not to harbor ill-will which will only grow if not addressed.

    Rav Kook famously said that the antidote for Sinat Chinam (Baseless Hatred) is Ahavat Chinam (Baseless Love). He suggested that we are each capable of loving our fellow human beings, recognizing them as our brothers and sisters created in G-d’s image. We are all interconnected sharing this gifted planet with others in order to give to each other our gifts and build a Messianic world of peace and justice. How?? By getting to KNOW ONE ANOTHER, which creates empathy and intimacy. We can only discover the beauty of another by communicating and relating to one another. We must not be satisfied with the illusion of dwelling with stereotypes, as if we know another, when we have never broken bread with our fellow. We must overcome our fear and discover the elixir of Ahavat Chinam by having the faith that every human being is deserving of our love and gifts. In this way we can build societies that are able to coexist in a dignified way, in a way that honors and protects life in all its splendor.

    A Holy Temple cannot endure in a generation which professes Sinat Chinam, disunity, division amongst ourselves, and separates itself from those in need of our care and deep humanity. The Talmud states: “That any generation in which the Holy Temple is not rebuilt is considered as if it had destroyed it” (Yershalmi Yoma 1:1). This suggests if we have not rectified the causes that resulted in the destruction we perpetuate the darkness that continues destruction in our world. In our generation we have the potential to address the causes of Sinat Chinam, heal the pain in the ‘rejected other’ and identify the place within ourselves where we have not addressed our inner resentment and ill-will. Let us discover the deep love that is contained in our hearts and bring it to others.

    I have chosen the plague of Sinat Chinam as the most egregious condition that we must address in our generation. The Sages in different generations read different moral lessons that can be learned from the destruction of the Temples. In the Talmud (Shabbat 119B) many suggested causes are highlighted as causes for the destruction as lessons for their day. They read into the tragedy lessons which they thought the people in their time needed. Over centuries the Rabbis read into the past the faults of the present. Thus, some of the causes given may not be true in fact, but nevertheless they are valuable lessons to be learned.
    Today, let us listen to our souls to discover the very lesson we are meant to learn on this day and use our insights to help heal our world. Listen (Va’aneetem) and discern (Ayeka) your unique discovery and bring your revelation to our world. We are all in this together, and it is imperative that we build a world worthy of the Third Holy Temple and may this be so!

    Blessings for an inspirational Shabbat and a meaningful, revelatory fast, overcoming Baseless hatred, imbibing the abundant love within and moving toward a healing of our world,

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Rabbi Mel

  2. Wendy Berk

    From Reform Judaism.org

    Why Summer’s Parched Soil is Ripe for the Seeds of Hope
    A Liberal Interpretation of the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz


    At this time of year in Israel, heat again bakes ancient stone. The land is parched, and it is easy to fall prey to fear. It can seem that the thirst of this 17th day of the month of Tammuz is not only the thirst of this year but of every summer at once. Time flattens upon itself. The stories of this day are the stories of all the 17ths of Tammuz through time.

    This day, our stories say, is the day that Moses came down from the mountain. (Mishnah Taanit 4:6) Some six weeks before that day, the Israelites assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai in awe and joy at receiving the Ten Commandments. Moses then ascended the mountain, while the Israelites remained below, awaiting his return. Though their slavery in Egypt was behind them, as they waited, their hope for planting themselves in a new land slowly dried up. The summer lengthened, and Moses did not return. Fears of abandonment mounted with the temperature, and the Israelites flailed.

    Finally, as we read in Parashah Ki Tisa, they gave in to their worries and the heat of their anxiety. They melted gold and made a calf. As they danced around it, Moses at last descended. Seeing them worship their idol, he smashed the tablets God had carved, then ground the Golden Calf to powder, forced the Israelites to drink it mixed in water, and ordered that those not loyal to God be put to the sword. That day was the first 17th of Tammuz of the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt: a day of grief for hopes gone awry, on their way away from the “narrow places” of Egypt.

    Centuries later, the Jewish people faced a different time “in the straits.” On the 17th of Tammuz, 70 CE, the Roman army, which had been closing in on Jerusalem for months, breached the city’s walls. (Mishnah Taanit 4:6) The Jews who remained inside strove to secure the Temple Mount, the site of the Beit Ha-Mikdash, the Holy Temple, the center of Jewish worship for centuries. It was on the Temple Mount that the Jewish priests had offered daily sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people, one of the primary ways they maintained the Covenant with God for the greater part of a thousand years.

    In the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the Beit Ha-Mikdash, lay the Ark of the Covenant, containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments: both the fragments of the same tablets Moses is said to have smashed at Sinai on the 17th of Tammuz centuries before and the unbroken ones that Moses made when he went up the mountain again. The Romans’ conquest of Jerusalem may have been unavoidable, but it was hastened by the fact that for months the Jewish factions inside the city had turned on each other, rather than unifying against the enemy outside the city’s walls. Three weeks after the walls were breached, the Romans took the Temple Mount on the 9th of Av, plundering the Ark, destroying the Beit Ha-Mikdash and, with it, the core worship practice of Judaism until that time. Again, because of events on the 17th of Tammuz, the Covenant was threatened, and people died by the sword.

    These events on the 17th of Tammuz, and others that also have been ascribed to this date, are the reasons it has long been observed as a day of mourning in Jewish tradition. Though the day and the rituals of this time of year are not often marked by Reform Jews, traditionally, the 17th of Tammuz begins the “Three Weeks,” a period of mourning lasting until the 9th of Av (Tishah B’Av in Hebrew), the day on which the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 586 BCE and the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE. The historic practice on the 17th of Tammuz itself is to observe a “minor fast” (from sunrise to sundown) and other restrictive practices, as laid out in the Talmud and later sources, for example, Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 122:1. It is a day of grief over past moments of fear and defeat. Time collapses in on itself as the Tammuz of the Golden Calf and of 70 CE are baked together, layer upon layer of time and stone.

    And, yet, within this parching day, the seeds of hope also are planted, ready to sprout from the sunbaked soil.

    We remember.

    The Israelites’ failure in the creation of the Golden Calf ultimately led to a new understanding between God and the people: the second set of tablets was carved by Moses, not by God, acknowledging that, though the law may exist in ideal form as conceived by the Divine, in practice it belongs in the hands of those who follow it.

    Torah is not in heaven, but here in our hearts. So, too, the breach of Jerusalem’s walls, tragically spurred on by senseless hatred among our own people, ultimately made room for a new Judaism in which prayer, learning, and interpretation were a mikdash (a holy dwelling) that could be passed from place to place and person to person. Torah is not beyond the sea, but here in our mouths. (Deuteronomy 30:13-14) The heat that fuses time to time on this day bakes this hope into us as well: that from our mourning can come new promise and new life, that seeds planted in parched earth await the chance to break through and bloom.

  3. Aryae Post author

    Reb Shlomo on Parshat Pinchas

    This is an amazing, 26 page commentary transcribed from a spontaneous teaching that Reb Shlomo gave in 1987. (Thank you Rabbi Joe Schonwald for sending this.) You don’t have to read the whole thing to come away with some beautiful nuggets. Just one example:

    I want you to know. I heard a gevalt Torah. When people walk on the street and it’s daylight they are not very close to each other. Imagine it’s dark, you know what do you when you see another human being and it’s so dark? You have to hold hands. You have to hold hands. So this Rebbe said, in the time of the Beis Hamikdash we walked Ashrei temimei derech. Happy are those whose ways are whole. We walked in G-d’s path. We didn’t hold hands. Before Mashiach’s coming, it’s so dark that we must hold hands. And it’s just so special….

    I want you to know one more thing. It’s so deep. You know, when the light is on and I meet my friend I look at them and I see who they are. When it’s dark, how do I know who they are? Their voices. So Tamuz is not so dark yet because we can still see. Av, the fixing is hearing. Because Av is so dark that the only way we recognize each other is by hearing. But gevalt are we holding hands when we hear a friend. You see, when you see a friend you don’t hold hands so tight. When it’s so dark the only thing you know about your friend? You hear their voice. Gevalt are you holding on to each other. . Gevalt are you holding on to each other.

  4. Wendy Berk

    From Rabbi Simon Jacobson

    The Laugh

    Can You Swim?
    Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva were walking in the vicinity of Rome. From far away, they heard the sounds of a thriving metropolis, and three of them began to cry, but Rabbi Akiva laughed.
    They said to him, “Why are you laughing?” {Rabbi Akiva responded:]“And you, why are you crying?” “These barbarians, who bow to idols and burn incense for false gods, are living in peace and security, while we, the footstool of whose G-d is burnt with fire – should we not cry?” He said to them, “That is exactly why I am laughing. If people who violate the will of G-d have it so good, how much better will those who act according to His Will, have it?”
    Another time, the same scholars were walking towards Jerusalem. When they reached Mt. Scopus (from which it is possible to see the Temple Mount), they tore their clothing. When they arrived at the Temple Mount, they saw a fox running out of the area where the Holy of Holies had been. They began to cry, while Rabbi Akiva laughed.
    They said to him, “Why are you laughing?” He responded, “Why are you crying?”
    “If from the place about which it is written, ‘And the stranger who enters there, shall die,’ we see a fox coming out, should we not cry?”
    “For that very reason, I am laughing. Isaiah the Prophet said, ‘I will bring two reliable witnesses regarding my People, Uriah the Priest and Zecharia ben Yevarech’yahu. ‘(Isaiah 8:2) Now what do Uriah and Zecharia have to do with each other? Uriah prophesied in the time of the First Temple, and Zecharya in the time of the Second Temple! But the verse in Isaiah makes Zecharia’s prophecy dependent on Uriah’s.
    “In Uriah’s case, it is written, ‘Therefore, because of you, Zion will be plowed under like a field.’ (Michah/Uriah 3:12) In the case of Zecharia, we find, ‘Yet again, elderly men and elderly women will sit in the streets of Jeruselam (and each will have a staff in his or her hand from great age. And the streets of the city will be full of children, playing in her streets) (Zecharia 8:4-5) Until I saw the fulfillment of Uriah’s prophecy, I had some doubt as to whether Zecharia’s prophecy would come true. Now that I have seen Uriah’s prophecy fulfilled in full detail, I know that Zecharya’s prophecy will also be fulfilled.”
    Hearing that, Rabbi Akiva’s colleagues said to him, “Akiva, you have comforted us. Akiva, you have comforted us.” (End of the tractate Makot)
    This time of year is the saddest one in the Hebrew calendar. During these “Nine Days,” the period from the first day of Av until the 9th of Av (Tisha b’Av), we mourn the destruction of the two holy Temples: the first Temple destroyed by the Babylonians 2426 years ago, the second one by the Romans 1936 years ago.
    Why would we still be grieving over a structure destroyed thousands of years ago?
    For two reasons:
    1/ The Temple was not a mere piece of real estate. It was a window between heaven and earth. The Temple bridged spirit and matter. Thus its destruction was not just an isolated historical event, but one whose effects are still reverberating today. As long as tension remains between the physical and the spiritual, we are experiencing the loss of the Temple. Which is why our sages tell us that:
    “A generation that does not rebuild the temple is considered as if it destroyed it.”
    2/ Time is not linear but spiral. Events that happen in a particular time of year are related to the energy flow of that respective time. And that energy flow repeats itself each year as the cycle returns to that point in time.
    The negative energy that manifested when the Temple was first destroyed repeats itself each year during this period in time.
    In other words: Historical events are merely outer manifestations of invisible forces that are always at work behind the scenes.
    Our grief for the destruction of the Temple includes all areas in life that cause us anguish.
    Therein lays a profound lesson in life, and a universal lesson at that.
    The Hebrew calendar reflects the true rhythm of life. Life is not a comprised of particles but of waves. Like the waves of the sea, life consists of cycles, with troughs and crests, some of which may be extreme.
    A good swimmer recognizes the dynamic nature of water, and adjusts accordingly. In contrast to a static plateau, which one can navigate without fluctuation, the waves of water require constant vigilance to negotiate the cycles. When a strong wave hits, a proficient swimmer will not resist or fight the wave, but “go with the flow” and allow the cresting wave to carry him. Any attempt to ignore or fight the wave will quickly deplete the swimmer’s energy, with the risk of drowning the swimmer. In the case of a severe stormy sea, the need to surrender to the flow of the waves is only amplified.
    On the other hand, when the waves are relatively calm, the swimmer uses their energy as a catalyst for forward thrust.
    Interestingly, when negotiated properly, both stages, whether it be stormy waves or calm ones, are forms of energy that are all part of the swimming cycle. Indeed, a powerful wave that cannot be fought can be tapped in a powerful way, as long as you ride it and don’t try to resist.
    Now back to the wave-cycle of time. Time too consists of crests and troughs. The Hebrew calendar is a sort of travel guide through time that helps us align ourselves to the inner rhythms of life’s cycles.
    As the Talmud declares:
    “Just as when Av arrives decrease joy, so too when Adar arrives increase joy.”
    Strange statement: Why equate the two periods in time? Even if the Talmud wanted to make both statements, it could have simply said: “When Av arrives decrease in joy; when Adar arrives increase in joy”?!
    The Talmud is telling us that time is a cycle. Av and Adar are not just two unrelated, diametrically opposed, periods in time: One filled with sorrow, the other with joy. They are like the trough and crest of one wave: Just as Av brings on a decrease in joy, so too Adar brings on an increase in joy.
    And therein lies the secret behind Rabbi Akiva’s laugh. It goes without saying that Rabbi Akiva also fasted and grieved on Tisha B’av, and probably shed a tear or two. The Temple’s destruction was no less a tragedy for him than it was for his colleagues. Yet, Rabbi Akiva recognized the bigger picture: Within the tragedy he was able to see the end of the story. Within the death he was able to see the birthing of a better future.
    When he heard that the Jews continue to mourn the destruction of the Temple for close to two millennia, Napoleon purportedly said:
    “Because they continue to cry for the Temple, they will ultimately get it back.”
    Crying over the loss of the Temple is like riding the difficult waves. By not ignoring and not fighting them, the tears become part of the swim, part of the journey, that swim ultimately leads us to our destination. If you forget and get desensitized to the sadness of life, then you become desensitized to the joy as well. In other words: If you don’t cry when it’s time to cry, you won’t be able to rejoice when it’s time to celebrate. If you cry when the situation calls for it, you will see it through and rejoice when the time comes (“Just as when Av arrives decrease joy, so too when Adar arrives increase joy”). When you navigate the troughs you have the power to ride the crests.
    This also explains how the Munkatcher Rav (Minchas Elozor) interprets the Talmud: “When Av arrives decrease – the negative energy of Av through – joy.” How can he turn around the literal meaning of the statement, which specifically directs us to decrease joy? In Jewish thought, based on faith in G-d, even a decrease in joy is not an end in itself, but part of a larger picture. In that context, even the decrease in joy in the month of Av is only a decrease on an ostensible level; within the sadness lays a deep joy – the joy of the light at the end of the tunnel, that our mourning today is a yearning that will lead us to the rebuilding of the Temple. How do we reveal that joy? By acting joyously (in ways that are halachakly/legally permitted) during the month of Av.
    There are two ways to celebrate joy. One is through revealed joy, like the overt celebration of Adar; the other is through the joy that lies within the challenges of life as well. Both are part of one story – both part of one journey, the journey of our life’s waves.
    There was once a Chassid who was unjustly imprisoned by the Czar’s regime, a common event in those days. His Rebbe was allowed to visit him once. When the Rebbe came to see him he noticed that the Chassid was despondent. “Why are you feeling so down?” the Rebbe asked him. Didn’t we learn that one must always serve G-d with joy, and even negative experiences are also for the good?” The Chassid replied: “I am not saddened by the fact that I am in prison, but because it’s now two weeks that I have been unable to recite a blessing in this prison.” In his cell there was a pail used for lavatory purposes that did not allow one to recite a blessing.
    The Rebbe smiled and told him: “But isn’t it true that the same G-d who commanded us to recite a blessing, also commanded us not to recite on under such conditions. So, even as you don’t recite a blessing you are equally performing a mitzvah, which should be done with joy!”
    Upon hearing the Rebbe’s words, the Chassid jumped up and began to dance. His exuberance was contagious and the other prisoners, Jews and non-Jews, joined him in celebration. One of the rabid anti-Semitic guards inquired as to the reason for the joy. One of the prisoners told him, “That Jew over there is the one that began the dancing. I don’t know the exact catalyst, but I know it has some connection to the pail in his cell.” When the guard heard that, he immediately entered the cell of the Chassid, and said, “I’ll show you. I am getting rid of the pail in your cell!”…
    The Baal Shem Tov uses an analogy of a spiral staircase. In Yiddish a spiral staircase is called “shvindel trep,” literally: Swindling steps. Why? Because when you climb a regular vertical staircase, you see the destination and you see yourself getting closer to it as you climb the stairs. A spiral staircase “swindles” you, because as you get closer to the destination you have to turn completely around, in a 360 degree turn, to the point when cannot see the apex. Indeed, just before you reach the top, you must turn completely around for the last time. When you’re still far from the destination you may be able to see it, but just before reaching your destination you have your back to it.
    The challenge is to know how to see it through.
    Rabbi Akiva, a man who paid many prices, a man who discovered his soul at age forty, was able to see the big picture. He was never swindled by the apparent dips and downs in life. Therefore he was able to laugh when others cried.
    And his vision helps us all see better. It comforts us and helps us smile.
    Ironic isn’t it that good times can allow us to be trapped in the small picture. Sadder moments leave us no choice but to recognize the bigger picture.
    But after all is said and done, we have been promised that the worst is over and the best is yet to come. We have had more than our share of troughs, and are ready for the ultimate crest.
    Are we ready?

  5. Wendy

    From My Jewish Learning

    Why Tisha B’Av is Not Really About Mourning
    The practices associated with this holiday are closer to the experience of being a refugee than to being a mourner.


    We tend to think of Tisha B’Av, the fast day that commemorates the destruction of both ancient temples, as a time of mourning. But the traditional observances of Tisha B’Av — fasting, being unable to sit anywhere except on the ground, not washing, abstaining from sexual activity, not greeting other people, not wearing fresh clothes for the whole week before — are closer to the experience of being a refugee than to being a mourner.

    When the Temple was destroyed, the people were thrown into exile. Jerusalem became a war zone and its people became refugees, forced to risk their lives to escape violence, famine, and devastation. The suffering was tremendous — “like deer, not finding a place to graze, walking without strength before a pursuer,” in the words of the Book of Lamentations.

    The author(s) of Lamentations (Eicha in Hebrew), the biblical text traditionally read on Tisha B’Av, believed that what happened to the Jewish people was the result of divine judgment. But even though the book sounds like it’s about God punishing us, it’s not really a theodicy — that is, a justification of God’s actions. The question our ancestors faced was not whether the disaster could be reconciled with God’s goodness. Rather, the question was whether God still cared about them.

    Choosing a God that cared enough to punish them was better than choosing a God that didn’t care at all. But the anxiety that maybe God doesn’t care is also woven throughout Eicha. In every chapter, the poet beseeches God to pay attention Lamentations 1:9 Lamentations 2:20, and in the very last verse, the poet wonders if God has rejected us forever.

    This idea that exile and homelessness were punishment for our sins seems alien to many modern Jews. But the ancients were not as far from us as we think. In Eicha itself, most of the chapters describe the punishment God inflicted as excessive and abusive. Only in chapter 3 is Zion’s destruction consistently described as fair and just.

    The real perspective of Eicha is summed up in verse 2:13: “What can I compare to you, daughter Jerusalem, that I may comfort you?” What images, what words, will help people bear the memory of tragedy? The poet is willing to say anything that will enable the people to find meaning and hope in the face of exile.

    There is another way to understand the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of its people. According to the prophet Jeremiah, the traditional author of Eicha, the reason for the Babylonian exile was that the people did not let the land rest every seven years, as is biblically mandated Chronicles II 36:21. Since 490 years had passed without a sabbatical year, Israel had to go into exile for 70 years — one year for each sabbatical that was missed.

    The Torah teaches that God will take the side of the land against the people if forced to, and that the land will “enjoy her Sabbaths” Leviticus 26:34 — even if that means the people are exiled or wiped out. What has intrinsic value is not humanity, but humanity’s potential to do justice.

    The Torah outlines six curses for not observing the sabbatical year, which describe how the relationship between the people and the land unravels. Two curses involve children being eaten – by wild animals Leviticus 26:22, then by their own parents Leviticus 26:29. That image is repeated in Eicha — Lamentations 2:20, 4:10 — and it is the main connection between Eicha and Leviticus. But the idea that the destruction of Jerusalem came about because of how the Jewish people treated the land is not found in Eicha, where identification of the land with the people is total. Instead, Jerusalem’s downfall results only from the moral downfall in relationships between human beings.

    In Jeremiah too, the fate of Jerusalem is sealed only after the rich, who briefly set their slaves free, re-enslave them when it looks like the danger has passed Jeremiah 34. The overall message of these texts is that how we treat the stranger (the refugee, the foreigner, the convert) and the poor determines whether we have the right to remain in the land.

    Even though most people are uncomfortable with the idea of divine retribution, in an age when our ecological “sins” are coming home to roost, the connection between disaster and divine retribution is not so farfetched. And since Creation is also compared to the sacred Temple in the Midrash, it is natural to connect the story of the Temple’s destruction with the destruction of the earth and the sixth mass extinction initiated by human action.

    But there is a very big difference: When the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed, there were other lands for the refugees to flee to. If we destroy the Temple that is the Earth, there will be no place untouched by tragedy.

    As climate change puts more pressure on our ecosystems and our social systems, more and more people will become refugees like our ancestors, forced to flee areas no longer capable of sustaining human habitation. And for those fortunate enough not to live in such places, we will need all the spiritual resources we can muster to stay open to the humanity of the refugee and the stranger, while also taking care of our own communities.

    All of these issues can become intertwined with the experience of Eicha and the story of Jerusalem’s destruction. Reading Eicha is an invitation to remember what it means to be a refugee, and to think about how we can move towards justice for all people, for all species, and for the land herself.

    All translations are taken from Eikhah/Laments, Rabbi David Seidenberg’s original translation of the Book of Lamentations. Laments is designed to connect the reader on the most visceral level to the text and also includes more discussion. Laments can be downloaded here.

  6. Wendy

    From Rabbi Yoel Glick

    The Great Shattering

    The story is told of how the Indian saint, Seshadri Swami, would go through the market of the town where he lived and smash the windows of the local shopkeepers. The first time this happened, the shopkeepers were disturbed and perplexed by his behaviour. They soon discovered, however, that the swami’s ‘vandalism’ led to unexpected blessings: old debts were suddenly cancelled, a lucrative deal was made or a new flood of business would come pouring in to their shop. Thereafter, they were overjoyed whenever they were ‘victimized’ by the swami.
    Sometimes, a situation becomes so blocked that the only way forward is through a shattering. The shattering breaks down the barriers that are obstructing further progress. It removes the old form that is unable to carry the intended blessing and makes room for a new light.
    This process is integral to the nature of our reality. It is part of the cycle of human evolution: At key moments in the history of humanity when the extreme limit of a given form’s potential has been reached, or when a form has become totally ineffective, God harnesses powerful forces and destroys the existing form in order to make way for a new one.
    Tisha B’Av – the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av – is such a moment. According to the tradition, the destruction of the first and second Temples took place on this day, as well as a number of other great tragedies in the history of the people of Israel.
    There is something powerful that occurs during these moments of shattering. Somehow, all the pain and resistance inside us is brought to the surface and then wiped away. Despite the suffering and destruction, there is a letting go of all the unnecessary bits, a stripping down to essentials that leads us to a remarkable inner clarity.
    According to the tradition, the keruvim (cherubs) over the Ark in the Temple were fashioned facing each other, cleaving one to the other. However, the Midrash tells us that whenever Israel failed to fulfill the Will of God, the keruvim would suddenly miraculously turn away in opposite directions. Yet, on the original Tisha B’Av, when the Babylonians entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple, they found that the two keruvim were still locked in an intimate embrace.
    Amid our seeming aloneness and solitude, God is very close. Even as He/She expresses His/Her anger and wrath, God is right beside us. Through the brokenness and the shattering there shines a brilliant light.
    A blessing is hidden in the darkness of Tisha B’Av. A deep truth is buried under the sorrow of this day.
    Sri Ramakrishna once went to visit a close devotee who was ill. When he saw the terrible condition of the man, Sri Ramakrishna exclaimed:
    “In order to take full advantage of the dew, the gardener removes the soil from the Basra rose down to the very root. The plant thrives on account of the moisture. Perhaps this is why you too are being shaken to the very root.” [1]
    We are all trees in the garden of the Lord. Sometimes, the Divine gardener strips away all of our physicality so that the celestial dew can penetrate into our hearts.
    The human heart is called the temple of the soul. When the negative thoughts and feelings inside us become too numerous, they form an impassable barrier between God and ourselves. Then the sole means of transmitting the light through the barrier is to break down the very walls of the temple itself.
    Yet not all faults and imperfections will block out God’s light. If that were so, nobody would ever be able to receive the Divine blessing. There are certain fundamental flaws, however, that will prevent God from reaching us, and render our inner temple devoid of the sacred Presence. We get a good indication which obstacles these are, by looking at the factors that led to the destruction of the two Temples in ancient Jerusalem.
    At the time of the first Temple, the Bible tells us that the land was filled with corruption. The people had lost their faith in God and lived immoral, base lives. They indulged in idol worship and persecuted those who were weak and vulnerable. Even the priesthood itself had been degraded and corrupted. It is no wonder that the Temple could no longer hold the Divine Presence.
    Injustice, moral corruption, worshipping other gods – these are flaws that will lock God out. The difficulty with injustice and moral corruption is easy to understand. In our modern context, the issue of “worshipping other gods” is harder to pinpoint. From a higher perspective, worshipping other gods means to make the pursuit of power, money, and sensual fulfillment the central focus of our life. And conversely, to worship the Lord is to invest our energies, belongings and abilities in serving God and humankind.
    During the period preceding the destruction of the second Temple, Israel reached another impasse in its spiritual evolution. The Talmud tells us that the second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. Like the heart in our physical body, the spiritual heart is the central organ of our body of centers or sefirot. A properly working heart center is essential to the healthy functioning of our etz hachayim, our inner tree of life. Jealousy, bitterness, anger and hatred will block up our heart center. God cannot work through a person with a closed heart. And He certainly will not make him or her a dwelling place for the Shekhinah, for the feminine Divine Presence.
    There is another dimension to the tragedy of Tisha B’Av. According to the tradition, the destruction of the Temples is directly linked to the story of the spies that Moses sent out to scout out the land of Canaan [Israel]. When the spies returned from their journey, they told the people that any attempt to conquer the land was doomed to failure. When the Children of Israel heard these words, they fell into a panic and refused to enter into the land. As a result of this rebellion, God condemned the whole generation of the Exodus to die in the wilderness. This heart-breaking decree was pronounced on the day of Tisha B’Av.
    What was the reason for the failure of the spies? What was the cause of this debacle that led to such a disastrous result?
    The generation of the Exodus had grown up as slaves in Egypt. They lived a day-to-day existence where all of their energies were focused on mere physical survival. This bare existence left them with a very limited view of reality. It was this narrow-minded vision that led them to rebel against God and Moses. This slave mentality blinded them to the tremendous spiritual potential inherent in the Promised Land.
    This limited physical mindset was at the root of all of the tragedies that took place on Tisha B’Av. Had the generation of the desert been able to focus their hearts and minds in the divine, they would have retained the higher perception necessary to enter into the land. Had the people during first Temple times lived a God-centered life, they would never have fallen into the abyss of corruption and idol worship. If Divine Presence had truly been a living reality for the generation of the second Temple, they would have experienced an unconditional love for all human beings and the baseless hatred that caused the Temple’s destruction would never have appeared.
    An expansive awareness is the key to building the Third Temple of the future. This is why the Midrash states that the Messiah will be born on Tisha B’Av. The Messiah will awaken this lofty consciousness in Israel and humanity. He or she will reveal a teaching and a way of life to nurture and develop this most sublime state of being.
    This Tisha B’Av, as we mourn the Temple’s destruction, let us also strive to feel the intimate presence of God. As we contemplate the pain and suffering that has befallen our people on this day, let us also seek to discern the Divine spark in each and every human being. And rather than dwelling on the sorry state of the land and people of Israel, let us try to rediscover the vision that made us love the Holy Land. Let us prepare ourselves to receive the unique spiritual blessing that lies hidden beneath the great physical shattering of this solemn day.
    Copyright © 2017, by Yoel Glick
    Acknowledgements (↵ returns to text)
    ‘M’. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, as translated by Swami Nikhilananda↵

  7. Wendy

    From Rabbi T’mimah Ickovits

    …Sh’ma Yisrael, the bigger truth is that we are One. All is One. Holy Community need to be reminded, we are all part of a greater whole, we each have a unique job to do, we impact each other and the all. These three weeks offer an opportunity to dive beneath noise and abundant distractions and see, really sense truth. These three weeks are for inquiry and discerning what is helpful from what distracts and is no longer serving? What can be released to makes space for something new to root ?
    I consider these three weeks the start of the High Holy Day cycle.
    How?The calendar imprint invites clearing out. This makes time and space for change.
    Consider the Holy Baal Shem Tov’s three step system that illustrate the spiritual path as it relates to three week, and also for the months leading up to the autumn high holy days. These are nested repeating patterns that can also be called fractals.
    The process starts with Hakhna-ah (Release, Surrender), then moves to Havdalah (Discernment – what has staying value and what does can be released), to Hamtakah (Sweetening – making improvements)
    Looking at the bigger picture perspective – late Summer and early Autum Tammuz to through the high holy days –
    1. Three weeks of 17th Tammuz – 9th of Av – Clear out what is not useful (Tzim Tzum) make space. ( Hakhna-ah as Release )
    2. Tu B’Av and Elul with its merriment follow these days immediately. Re-turn to Source, T’shuvah (Hakhna-ah- as Surrender )
    3. High Holy Days (Havdalah – Discernment)
    4. Sukkot (Hamtakah – Sweetening)
    This time of year, holds an imprint for release that can allow something new to take hold. What will you release this year ? What blesings to you want to fill the space?
    Rabbi T’mimah Ickovits

  8. 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.

  9. Aryae Post author

    Three Weeks
    First posted on July 8, 2018.

    It is written that King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE. It stood for about four centuries before being destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. After the Hebrew exiles returned from Babylon in 539 BCE, they built the Second Temple, which lasted over 500 years before being destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. According to tradition both were destroyed at this time of the year, called the Three Weeks (17 Tammuz – 9 Av on the Hebrew calendar). Every year we observe the Three Weeks as a time of mourning and solemn reflection.

    In ancient times the rabbis reflected on the question: what are we to learn from the destruction of the Temples? Their inquiry took them to two themes: what we value, and how we treat each other.

    Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 9B:

    The First Temple, why was it destroyed? For three things within it: idol worship, sexual transgression, and bloodshed.

    But the Second Temple, where they were immersed in Torah, mitzvot, and acts of lovingkindness, why was it destroyed? Because there was senseless hatred. This comes to teach that the weight of senseless hatred is equivalent [to the total of all the other three].
    (Oral tradition committed to writing around 5th century CE)

    This year with the Three Weeks falling on June 30 – July 21, I’ve been reflecting on events in the U.S. today. A national government that no longer represents the majority of its citizens, wantonly engaging in senseless hatred, cruelty, destructiveness.

    In the U.S. our “holy temple” has been in the values and ideals of American democracy. Although we’ve been painfully slow to live up to these ideals, they’ve always served as the guiding light that unites us, and toward which we, the American people, aspire and progress. But today my heart is breaking as I stand by helplessly, forced to watch the daily destruction of our democracy.

    Is this the “Three Weeks” for America? Am I exaggerating? Can we still save our country?

    Soon I’ll be joining with thousands of Americans in California and across the country to do what we can to help save our democracy by helping people vote in the coming election. But for now I’m sitting quietly with the question: what can we learn from the Three Weeks about the right course of action for today?

    Ibn Ezra commenting on Leviticus 19:17:

    “Don’t hate your brother.”

    This is the inverse of “love your neighbor as yourself.” Behold how these mitzvot, both of them, are planted in the heart. And those who cultivate them shall remain in the land. Because it was senseless hatred that destroyed the Second Temple.
    (Spain, 12th century CE)

    Rav Kook

    Since we destroyed ourselves and the world through senseless hatred, then surely we can restore ourselves and the world through senseless love.
    Orot Hakodesh (Holy Lights), Israel, 1938

    Rabbi DovBer Pinson:
    [The Three Weeks] is a harsh time to be sure, a time of Din / judgment, yet despite this, or perhaps because of this, it is also a time where we can more easily feel close to [God]…. It becomes clear that all of our sufferings are meant to wake us up to our higher self and purpose, if we but heed the call.
    (The Months of Tammuz and Av, U.S., 2018)

    Breslover Hassidim
    Senseless love is good for the world!
    (20th century)

  10. 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.

  11. Wendy

    From David Zaslow

    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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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?

  15. 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).

  16. Wendy

    From Aleph

    The Three Weeks: shedding old forms by Rabbi T’mimah Ickovits

    One of the things which challenges me about this time on the Jewish calendar is that sadness and mourning seem to be encouraged. There is a tendency to dwell in pain, as if the pain and discomfort were the final goal.

    These (northern-hemisphere) summer months are a time of transition. These Three Weeks mark the siege of Jerusalem leading to the destruction of the Temple. At this season, many years ago, Judaism began to morph from a Temple-based tradition to what we today know as Rabbinic Judaism.

    In that destruction, Jewish practice released its old form, since that form was not sustainable. The movement from form to fluid, from ebb to flow, is the movement of ongoing life. The early rabbis modeled for us the practice of releasing a form which no longer serves.

    Releasing patterns which are no longer useful creates space. Spaciousness, in turn, can invite new insights, wisdom and joy. When we make this an annual practice of discernment, we allow layers of transformation to unfold over a lifetime.

    Rabbi Levi Yitzchak wrote, “Who ever wants to live should kill himself.” Dying, in this context, means being willing to give up form — to release patterns and practices which do not support life and love. This kind of “death” leads to rebirth.

    Form is a necessary part of life, and is often linked with ego. Our beloved teacher Reb Zalman, of blessed memory, taught, “Ego is a great manager and a lousy boss.” We need ego, as we need form, but we also need to be open to change. Changing form is difficult. This process can manifest in big ways (losing a job) or small ways (fasting.)

    It is deep spiritual work to discern the difference between forms which serve, and forms which have become comfortable habits but no longer serve.

    For example: my parents were Shoah survivors. My teacher Emilie Conrad, of blessed memory, taught that people often trade pleasure for survival. My parents’ focus was survival, and that’s what they passed on to me.

    Safety was a major issue for them, understandably. They developed a thick layer of security around all they did. It was appropriate for them. For many years I followed in their footsteps, not realizing that constantly checking and rechecking security was filtering goodness and joy out of my life. Those habits were a form which no longer served me.

    During the Three Weeks, we can practice letting go of forms which no longer serve.

    The Three Weeks end with the fast of Tisha B’Av. A few days later comes Tu b’Av, the 15th of the month of Av, a full moon celebration when tradition leads us to look for new joy. The time of dissolve leads to reformatting. This is teshuvah, the annual return to source which we practice especially in Elul in preparation for the Days of Awe. Many Hasidim begin thinking seriously about teshuvah on Tu B’Av.

    Other ancient cultures gave us the image of ourobouros, the snake with its tail in its mouth. The Jewish holiday cycle is like this, too. The beginning is already embedded before the end.

    Releasing habits which no longer serve offers an opportunity. We can choose to change. We can choose to be better receivers of Holy Presence and joy. This is the gift of this season.

  17. 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.

    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.

    Copyright © 2013, Jonathan Omer-Man

  18. 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.”

  19. 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


    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

    And from the squeeze

    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

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

  22. Wendy

    From Rabbi Miles Krassen
    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.

  23. Wendy

    From Rabbi Gershon Winkler


    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).

  24. 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

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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

    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

    Rabbi David Seidenberg

  28. 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

  29. 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!”

  30. Wendy

    From Rabbi Miles Krassen

    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.

  31. Wendy

    From Rabbi SaraLeyah 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

  32. 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!

    And the Orthodox Union OU tries to make it relevant by bringing in the Holocaust, even tho we have a Yom Hashoah:
    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”

  33. 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:

    Blessings to all,
    Sharon Alexander

    Wendy’s comment: This is beautiful and haunting.

  34. 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.
    – 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
    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

  35. 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.

  36. 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

  37. 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.”

  38. 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


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