It Happened On The Way Home …
“So what you’re suggesting is we should do to ourselves what Hitler ultimately failed to accomplish.”
It seemed at first like an ordinary situation. While returning from a friend’s house this past Shabbat morning, a lady pulled up to the stop sign just as I was about to cross the intersection. She rolled down her front passenger window. Being the reasonable person I am, I reasonably assumed she was unfamiliar with Skokie, had gotten turned around and needed some help to get to her destination.You know what I mean. It’s happened to everyone, hasn’t it?
“Well, what you do is keep on going straight for three blocks.Take a right where you see the enormous sunflowers in this guy’s garden. Keep going south until the light. That’s Dempster. Dempster. D-E-M-P-S-T-E-R. No, no. Turn right at the sunflowers.” But it happened that her reason for stopping had nothing whatever to do with the best way to get to where she was going.
“Are you aware that a verse from the prophet Jeremiah invalidates the entirety of the Abrahamic covenant?” This lady was strictly business. She hadn’t even bothered to wish me a “Good Morning” before stripping me of my entire religious raison-d’etre.
“Oh, I guess I missed that memo,” I responded smilingly. There was no way I was going to forfeit this exchange by ungentlemanly conduct nor did I wish to make the morning any hotter than it already was. I tipped my hat and bid her a good Shabbos.
Apparently out shopping for an affordable Jewish soul, she must not have known that trafficking in souls as with body parts is strictly forbidden.
I realized after our brief exchange had come to a speedy conclusion that the experience, as discomfiting as it had been for those several moments, had served me well as an appropriate introductory lesson to all of the historical tragedy that Tisha B’Av counts and recounts every year.The Jewish nation remembers. It always has.Yiskor, remembrance, a central feature of the Jewish mentality, is one of many character attributes which, I think, has bothered many non-Jews throughout the centuries. Furthermore, it reminds them that though our numbers are few, we do have one hell of a powerful lobby. However, by the time I arrived home, I had already begun to stew in my own frustration. I complained to my wife.
‘Why this on-going resentment of the Jewish people? Why this interference in our lives and business as if we have no human, existential right to live as we wish, peaceably as the consummate Am Shalom, a nation of peace, as we are and have remained throughout countless centuries. Tragically, the pogroms came anyway. Tisha B’ Av is a day of personal and national remembrance of the tragedies that have befallen us as individual Jews or collectively as Am Yisrael, the nation of the Jewish people.
When it falls out on the Sabbath as happened this year, its commemoration and twenty-four hour fast are pushed off until Sunday.Certain stringencies of Jewish law, adhered to mostly by
orthodox Jews concerning, for example, the washing of clothes and the eating of meat, become progressively more severe beginning with the period of The Three Weeks, followed by the
Nine Days which corresponds to Rosh Chodesh Av, the first day of the new month of Av.(Readers with questions pertaining to Halacha, Jewish Law, should consult an orthodox rabbi.)
Often misunderstood by Jews as an end in itself or as an expression of health consciousness, fasting is a means by which to achieve teshuva, a word derived from the Hebrew root, shuv-to return to G-d.
In commenting on the Torah portion read on Tisha B’Av, the editors of the Stone Edition Chumash offer the following explanation: “Spiritual sloth will lead the people to lose their freshness and sense of spiritual adventure” and thereby become more likely to succumb to the temptations of idolatry and other forbidden ways. Should it happen, the promise of teshuva assures us such people will find their way back to the fold.
The inherent hopefulness of teshuva is not unlike the story of the young boy who, disobeying his parents’ wishes, took a long walk into an unfamiliar deep forest. He was so enthralled with the flora and fauna he lost track of the time.When he noticed the lateness of the hour, he reached into his pocket for his trusty compass only to discover that it had apparently slipped through a hole in his pants’ pocket. If he hadn’t realized it before, he understood now how quite lost he was Too late to trace back his steps, he slept away the remainder of the night seated against the broad girth of an ancient tree reciting: ‘How blessed is the Creator of the Universe for having made the rooster’s crowing intelligible to all men regardless of their native language’. Despite his most
determined efforts to remain awake, sleepiness did eventually close his eyelids.When the rooster crowed no longer than an hour later, the young man eagerly arose and, with the vigor of a young adult lion, retraced his steps, found the compass and was back in his mother’s kitchen by noon.
The 28th of July was an amazingly bright and pleasant day that provided us with an excellent setting in which to contrast the physical beauty of the day with the mournful tone of Tisha B’ Av.
The history of Tisha B’ Av is a recollection of the innumerable disasters that have befallen the Jewish people on the ninth of Av of which the two most important are the destruction of the first and second Batei Hamikdash, the two temples in Jerusalem: the first by the Babylonians (586 BCE) and the second, some six hundred and fifty years later, by the Romans
Jewish belief has forever held that Jerusalem, Ir Ha Kodesh, the holy city, remains the place where G-d,the Holy One, blessed be He, resides on Earth.
Traditional Jewish practice, ritual and prayer has always been a shared enterprise between the Jewish home and the shul, the latter known more commonly as the synagogue. For the past two thousand years during which time there has been no temple in Jerualem, the synagogue has served Jews as a Mikdash Maot, a miniature temple and will, I suspect, continue to do so until the arrival of the Messianic Age, preceded by the ingathering of the Jews from the four corners of the world.
“It is not only a day of historical remembrance but one of teshuva-a returning to the ways and beliefs of our forefathers and mothers,” commented Reb Aryeh this past Tisha B’Av morning as he, along with members of his congregation, sat on the floor, a sign of mourning that one sees in a private house of mourning, a shiva house following the death and burial of a loved one.
Perhaps the lesson of Tisha B’ Av is best learned when we teach our children to let all men and women live their lives as they see fit as long as they are peaceable and law abiding. Honor the Bo’re Ha Olam, The Creator of the world by celebrating the essential good He placed in every single one of his human creations. Perhaps Moshiach will come when we can truthfully say that each person can sit under his own fig tree, fearing no man, but G-d only.