Tisha b’Av 5780: Broken American Wanderers

Sources prepared by Rabbi Lori

The word “Eicha” is translated as “Lamentetions” or “Alas!” but is really untranslatable as it is an emotional quality. Tonight, we explore this emotion on a walk through Venice of America. 

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The rabbis of the Talmud blamed the demise of the Temples (both the first and second ones) and other Jewish tragedies on sinat chinam, Hebrew for baseless hatred.

Reflect: What is “baseless hatred”? Where is there baseless hated in the world today?  Where do I carry this in myself? 

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אֵיכָ֣ה ׀ יָשְׁבָ֣ה בָדָ֗ד הָעִיר֙ רַבָּ֣תִי עָ֔ם הָיְתָ֖ה כְּאַלְמָנָ֑ה רַּבָּ֣תִי בַגּוֹיִ֗ם שָׂרָ֙תִי֙ בַּמְּדִינ֔וֹת הָיְתָ֖ה לָמַֽס׃

Alas!  Lonely sits the city  Once great with people!  She that was great among nations  Is become like a widow;  The princess among states  Is become a thrall.

Reflect: Lamentations begins with the above verse. What city is being described? In what ways does this description resemble America today?

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“Five misfortunes befell our fathers … on the ninth of Av. … On the ninth of Av it was decreed that our fathers should not enter the [Promised] Land, the Temple was destroyed the first and second time, Bethar was captured and the city [Jerusalem] was ploughed up,”— Mishnah Ta’anit 4:6.

Reflect: Tisha b’Av is the ninth day of the eleventh month – the 9/11 of the Jewish calendar year. Are there dates in your life that trigger memories of destruction that you revisit each year? How do you move through them?

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Jews survived all the defeats, expulsions, persecutions and pogroms, the centuries in which they were regarded as a pariah people, even the Holocaust itself, because they never gave up the faith that one day they would be free to live as Jews without fear – Jonathan Sacks

Reflect: Does Judaism inform the way your faith moves through America in 2020?  If so, how?

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The Gemara says: In every generation that the Beit Hamikdash is not rebuilt, it is as if in that in that generation it was destroyed (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1:1).

Reflect: What is the Beit Hamikdash (Temple) in my life? Why was it destroyed?  How can I begin to rebuild it? What are the barriers stopping me from doing this?

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The Rambam says that the entire purpose of a fast day is to contemplate and repent for our sins, and our ancestors’ sins, that were, and continue to be, the cause of tragedies (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ta’anit 5:1).

Reflect: What ancestral wounds prevent me from rebuilding my Temple? What would healing these wounds require?  Is there a first step that I can begin now?

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In Eternal Echoes: Reflections on our Yearning to Belong, Celtic spiritual philosopher John O’Donohue notes that the word “belonging” is comprised of the two fundamental aspects of life: being and longing.  He writes, “Belonging is the heart and warmth of intimacy. When we deny it, we grow cold and empty. Our life’s journey is the task of refining our belonging so that it may become more true, loving, good and free.”

Reflect: How have I sustained my inner sense of “being” through quarantine? In what ways do I need to connect with others through this time?  How can I deepen my sense of belonging through this time?

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Beginning the fast:

No, this is the fast I desire:

To unlock fetters of wickedness,

And untie the cords of the yoke To let the oppressed go free;

To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry,

And to take the wretched poor into your home;

When you see the naked, to clothe him,

And not to ignore your own kin. (Isaiah 58:6-7)

Reflect: Does fasting cultivate yearning and clarity for me? In what ways can practice over the next 24 hours deepens this work? What does the prophet Isaiah suggest?

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The Torah is a Mirror. Today, we shatter it and can no longer rely on its wisdom for answers. Today, we are instructed to look inside. Look for what is broken. Search for what has shattered. Seek out what has been destroyed. The goal is to first name these things so that we can begin our journey. The technology through which we achieve this is called “The High Holidays.” This ancient technology engages us in a journey called T’Shuvah, and its meaning and goal is one thing: To Return. 

Reflect: what do I want to return to?  What do I need to repair in order to begin this journey?

 

This is the work before us over the next nine weeks. May we all move forward together as we Open Our Temples, and Together, rebuild our world.

With Love and We are All in this Together,

Rabbi Lori