Beyond the Cusp

July 16, 2013

Tisha B’Av and the Third Temple in Jerusalem

Today is Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. Tisha B’Av is a day of remembrance of the First Temple and the Second Temple and the many times and actions against the Children of Israel throughout history from every corner of the Earth. In order to properly morn the losses and hardships, feel the pain of those generations and our brothers and sisters throughout some of the darkest of times in which a Jew could have lived, or merely to have survived and kept our faith despite the challenges, we fast and spend the day in prayer and read from the Book of Lamentations. We also project hope on this the saddest day of the year for a Jew. We hope that this will be the last Tisha B’Av because the Temple will be rebuilt and the Moshiach will have come and all suffering will have ended and the perfect age has at last come to be as a blessing. But this year not only do I have difficulty in projecting even the smallest glimmer of hope for the restoration of the Temple, I actually fear that the Temple could be built in this time when we, the Jewish People are not worthy to receive such an honor as we have yet to learn one of the lessons from the loss of one of our Holy Temples in Jerusalem and we also are not obeying some of the most basic laws of Torah which the L0rd our G0d expects from us.

The lack of Torah obedience is easy to see almost anywhere that you find Jewish communities. Many Jews walk around with their heads uncovered even though there is no threat to their health and being from wearing the Kippah honoring our covenant with G0d. Most Jews do not commit to their daily prayers, keep a kosher kitchen, or obey many of the six-hundred-thirteen commandments and too many cannot even keep the Ten Commandments, those commandments which really were written in stone. And the most disheartening lack shown by Jews is their resistance to outright refusal to fulfill the command to settle the Land of Israel, to take hold of and possess all of the lands which were the divine gift to our people. Not only do many refuse to do their part by returning to our homeland but some, even among those living within our blessed lands, actually work and use every weapon at hand to prevent those who wish to settle the lands, all the lands, from building their communities on any part of those lands. They must act to make all of Judea and Samaria and Benyamin with all of Jerusalem incorporated and an intricate part of Eretz Yisroel. But even this does not give me the most distress again this year.

Once again this year we find that the Jewish People are not yet worthy to receive or build the Third Temple. The reason we are not fit to build or receive the Third Temple is simply because we have yet to learn the lessons from the destruction of the first two Temples. We had the First Temple destroyed due to tossing our way and forgetting to do the commandments that are part of our obligations to our Divine Covenant. In simple words, we became a nation of sinners. The most egregious of our sins was falling into idolatry, the most heinous sin and insult of our L0rd through actions possible for a Jew to commit. It could be said that this sin still infects the Children of Israel in the form of those who show greater love and devotion to wealth, property, items, and what are simply the modern golden calves than they show appreciation, love, respect or obedience to the L0rd. But even this is something which can be rectified through a rededication of the Children of Israel. What about our other sin which caused the destruction of the Second Temple?

The destruction of the Second Temple was caused by the committing of the worst acts imaginable, we were guilty of Sinas Chinam, unfounded, spiteful, baseless hatreds of our fellow brothers and sisters. Holding those of the other tribes or even those from our own tribe up for spite, disparage, slander, and baseless accusations. For the hatred of ourselves we lost the Second Temple and faced the dispersion of our peoples to the far corners of the known world leading to two millennia of wandering lacking a permanent place to call home. It was during these two millennia when our brethren lived as if under the curse from Leviticus 26: 36-7 where it states, “I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them. They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies.” The most frightening reality is that today we suffer from this horrific sin of Sinas Chinam. It can be witnessed towards those who are settling all of the lands, it is found between the separate factions especially of late between some who claim to be the exemplary learners and studiers of Torah, and in more manners than one can easily count between many who remain in the Diaspora. We are infected with Sinas Chinam from every conceivable source, through politics, Torah observance, who and how one should contribute and serve for the nations of Israel’s defense, acceptance of the varied traditions resultant of living for two millennia of diaspora separation of communities, whether or not to return home to Israel, and even whether or not as Jews we should be supportive of Israel. Should the Temple be rebuilt today we would likely find that whatever construction was performed under the light of the day would come undone under the cover of the dark night for we are yet to be worthy and deserving of receiving the renewal of the Temple.

Again this Tisha B’Av we will continue to be filled with the pains of remorse and loss while we fast adding real hunger to our hunger for a better world where the Temple is rebuilt and the Moshiach has come ushering G0d’s rule on Earth as it is in Heaven. We can also take a small comfort in the fact that more of us have returned home and Israel herself is steadily becoming more Torah observant. There is hope in that the children of Israel are awakening to the truth that all of Judea and Samaria must be retained as part of Israel as it must not be any other way. Many Jews are waking to the necessity to take full possession over the Temple Mount and that it must once again hear the songs of Jewish prayers. And I am even hopeful that as Jews we are learning that though we may pronounce words differently, not all of us are fluent quite yet in Hebrew, and we are at the early stages of a rebirth within the family of Israel thus we are beginning to move in the correct direction and hope for the future is possible. Let us dedicate ourselves to making each future Tisha B’Av a little closer to that future Tisha B’Av where the final Temple is rising atop of Jerusalem like the crown of His Glory that it should be and that we will finally be worthy of such a gift.

Beyond the Cusp

August 9, 2011

Tisha B’Av is Our Time to Learn as a Society

It struck me as odd when I realized that today is Tisha B’Av, the 9th of the Month of Av in the Hebrew Calendar, and it is also the 9th of the Month of August in the Julian Calendar, strange coincidence, or maybe not. This got me to thinking how it was the ninth day of a month beginning with the letter ‘A’ for the Jews in Israel and the majority of the Jews in the Diaspora, and how that must stand for something. I got to thinking about exactly what the Tisha B’Av fast and prayers are all about. Any day where Jews are instructed to fast from not only eating food, but to also abstain from Torah study except for select Parashah from Lamentations is most definitely a very unusual and special day, and to have it be so similar in the two largest societies of Jews makes this year’s Tisha B’Av special in some way. So, I reached back into the furthest and deepest recesses of thought trying to find the morsel that would satisfy my need for a reason, an explanation.

I thought for a while and the first point that came to me was that Tisha B’Av is so very different than other fast days and holy days in the Jewish faith. Most fast days in Judaism are meant for individual introspection and the repair of the self, yet it seems to me Tisha B’Av has a different theme for us to do our introspection and seek solutions. On Tisha B’Av we mourn the destruction of the two great Temples in Jerusalem, the villainous temerity that caused fear to cloud the judgment tainting the reporting on the Promised Land by ten of the twelve spies and the lack of faith that instilled causing fear in the Israelites causing forty more years of wandering in the desert until a new generation was born and readied, and a myriad of other tragic calamities throughout the ages right up to and including this year where in the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av we witnessed a pair of senseless and horrid murders. The suffocation and mutilation of nine year old Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn and in Israel the stabbing murder of a Torah great who was also steeped in Kabbalh, Rabbi Elazar Rabbis Abuhatzeira, both murdered by a fellow Jew who were reportedly both having what was termed ‘mental difficulties’. It was these last two tragedies that brought forth my thoughts on what makes this Tisha B’Av special.

Tisha B’Av is a day of fasting and with the reading of Lamentations with the intent of the Jewish people not focusing on the self as much as focusing on the whole of Jewish society and the things that are affecting the body of the community affecting it as if it was an infection, a disease. It is a time for introspection as a society more so than as an individual, though in all Jewish introspection one major goal is the improvement of the self. For Tisha B’Av we are tasked to improve ourselves in such a way as to improve our society starting with our Jewish society. As Jews we are instructed to be a light unto the nations, an example of how to live and be righteous and accepting of each other, if not loving of each other. In order to do this we must first set our own community in order. The two murders that were days apart and of a nature that they riveted the attention of both societies, Leiby Kletzky for the Diaspora in the United States and Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira in the Land of Israel, though both tragic events were also felt by both societies. What I saw as a message told by both instances was that the House of the Jews is not in order and is suffering from a lack of mutual love, respect, understanding, and fulfillment of our obligation to be as a light unto the nations. If we are having such animosity and have turned to committing violence upon fellow Jews, how can we then in turn show the rest of the world how to live with acceptance and harmony between peoples when we are unable to do so among ourselves?

This is what must be the intent of having the ninth of Av fall on the ninth of August, to emphasize that despite the differences between those Jews living in Eretz Yisroel and those still remaining in the Diaspora, we are all Jews and must learn to sympathize and feel each other’s pains and frustrations and find channels through which to connect with one another. This Tisha B’Av Jews everywhere need to become one family again and hold tightly to those things which we share while repairing those areas where we have yet to reach a commonality. The grief visited upon both societies of the Jewish People were messages telling us that despite our geographic distance, we need to feel and become one even if at first only to combat all adversities that afflict either of our groups and especially those that afflict both of our groups. The time where doing such has become imperative is now, not tomorrow, not next week, not when it is easier or necessitated by even more horrendous afflictions.

When we look around the Jewish family we see a very dysfunctional family with many problems of which the feeling and actions that come from a spirit of oneness is completely lacking. This was made evident with the rejection by those Tel Aviv Jews initially refusing to allow the Jews from Judea and Samaria from joining their protests despite the similarity of situations for both groups. The Jews from around Tel Aviv cannot find affordable housing because of slow processes to obtain permits among other reasons while the Jews from Judea and Samaria suffer lack of housing due to the ten month building freeze and the unofficial extension of that building freeze by certain powers within the government. Two groups of Jews sharing a similar problem yet they take up sides against one another refusing to feel empathy or even sympathy for each other. Then there is the rift between secular Jews and religious Jews, wealthy Jews and those less well-off Jews, you name a type of division in a culture and it as well as some uniquely Jewish element serve as insurmountable obstacles placing impenetrable barriers between the differing members of the universal family of Jews. These are the problems that urgently need to be recognized and addressed this Tisha B’Av.

So, my prayer for this Tisha B’Av is that Jews everywhere can come together as we were in June of 1967 when we all felt threatened and challenged and stepped up as a people to face the overbearing animosity threatening all of us. Today we have very similar looming threats over our heads yet rather than come together to protect, defend and love one another we are casting stones and abuse of all natures; physical as seen at the housing protests, ideological as we see regularly in the Knesset, acceptance as witnessed by some to the Ethiopian Jews who have come home to our family only to be scorned by their peers, geographically by the fact that half of the family has yet to return home to our promised lands, religiously as can be seen by the arguments between factions on how to be a good Jew as well as others that we all will find and correct should this Tisha B’Av produce a renewal of our feelings and actions that strengthen Jewish unity as a society and as a family.

No longer can we afford to be brother against brother and not much longer will the L-rd our G-d permit such a splitting of his house or the self-inflicted wounds that are all too often intentional. This Tisha B’Av the message is to get our house in order and renew the bonds between all Jews, not solely those who meet your particular standards as we are a family with a common and shared history that should teach us the danger of continuing on our current path of internal strife and conflict. The message is quite clear for those willing to seek it and the solution will come through our reawakening to our traditions and history. We must return to the love of our brothers and sisters before it becomes too late and another destruction is added to the list of calamities to contemplate over on Tisha B’Av.

Beyond the Cusp

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