Personal thoughts on current events, cultural events, Israel, Judaism, Jewish/Israel innovations and life from a Jewish perspective - read into that what you may.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Food for Thought this Tisha Ba'av

I was forwarded this email and I thought it pertinant for Tisha Ba'av as well.

A meaningful fast to all.


BS”D Bayn Ha’me’tzarim 5764

Today is the 17th of Tamuz, which ushers in a three week period of mourning, concluding with the ninth day of Av. The period is called Bayn Ha’metzorim, meaning “between the straits”, for the dangers and tragedies which befell our nation over the generations in this period are likened to a light ship being tossed from boulder to boulder in treacherous waters, with each blow ripping apart another piece of the ship.

As I walk around the walls of the Old City, I can visualize the moment when the northern side was breached by the Roman troops on this day 1934 years ago, and according to some, was breached on this very day 500 years earlier by the troops of Nevuchadnetzer, King of Bavel.

What marks the intimate, exclusive relationship between Am Yisrael and the Creator is not the suffering we have endured to this very day, but the fact that with it all Hashem has caused this impossible little ship to survive the straits. For me, all our history was reduced today to a simple act. I walked near the City’s walls with the blue-white flag of Medinat Yisrael over the old city and waved to a Jewish boy in uniform and spoke to each other in the language our fathers spoke in the bet hamikdash.

And it occurred to me:

The prophet Zecharia says in chapter 8,19:

“Thus says the L-ord of hosts, “the fast of the fourth (month 17th of Tamuz) and the fast of the fifth (month 9th of Av) and the fast of the seventh (month Tzom Gedalia on the 3rd of Tishrei) and the fast of the tenth (month the 10th of Tevet) will be (in the future) for the House of Yehuda for joy and gladness and for holidays and truth and peace shall exist together in love”.

It is enlightening that this year the 17th of Tamuz falls out in the week of the Fourth of July, the 228th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America. The 17th of Tamuz called the “fast of the fourth” which marks the beginning of our long exile, falls out in the week of July fourth, the day of independence of that land which became home to so many Jews. There is a message here, as there is in everything a Jew sees and does.

Zecharia’s sees that these fast days will one day turn into days of rejoicing. How can one eradicate the raging sounds of the 17th of Tamuz when the walls came crashing down and the enemy charged into the city to vent their rage on the Jews of Yerushalayim!? How can we sing on the 9th of Av when so many bitter things happened; the worst being the destruction of the bet hamikdash and the beginning of our 2000 year exile!?

But the words of the prophet are torah and hence true. Indeed, we see them becoming a reality today in many parts of the world. In the Jewish communities of Antwerp, London, Jo-berg SA., Sidney, Sao Paolo, the “Five Towns”, Teaneck, Boca, Beverly Hills (don’t feel left out if I didn’t mention your spot). In all these places, the fasts of the “fourth” and the “fifth” have become days of “joy and gladness”, because what occurred on them caused all these Jews to be where they are today.

If not for the 17th of Tamuz in the year 70 CE, the big palatial home in Silver Springs would not have a beautifully designed mezuza near the entrance, but a little statuette of the “savior” of some goyishe family in the garden.

If not for Tish’ah Be’Av, Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights Brooklyn, would have several hundred more black families rather than wide brim hatted young Jewish men proclaiming a holy Jewish soul now residing in Olam Haba as still alive and waiting to answer your questions - just write it on a note and put it into the sefer.

If not for these days of strife, which have like the Prophet’s prediction, turned into days of joy for their contribution in giving our brothers in galut the comforts they enjoy, we would all be here in Eretz Yisrael having to struggle together to maintain a Jewish presence in the Holy Land.

So let us give praise to these days of joy!

I propose that in recognition of the simcha of the “fourth” and “fifth” fasts, that a new greeting be instituted. On Shabbat you say “gut shabbas”, on yom tov you say “gut yomtov”, from now on greet your fellow Jew in galut on the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av etc., with the words “a freilicha churban”.

I can very well imagine the reaction of many people to what I have written. Let me explain.

My brother, Rav Meir z”l, and I, very often discussed how we can bring about the return of Jews to Eretz Yisrael. He claimed that the most potent way is through fear. So he raised the flag of fear in his talks and writings: fear of anti-Semitism; fear that your son will one day bring home a shiksa, fear that after all your efforts your children will depart from yiddishkeit. I would answer Meir, that he might be correct that fear is the most potent method, but I don’t think Hashem wants His children to come home because of fear. My way is different.

I want my brothers and sisters to recognize the absolute incompatibility with a torah way of life in chutz La’aretz when the gates of Eretz Yisrael are open. I want to show that the communities in the galut today are in a state of voluntary exile - a sin of the highest order.

A serious pious Jew has to ask himself, free of the influences of his rabbi etc.: I have one life to lead, and a day gone by can never be > regained. Where does my Jewish conscience lead me. To make myself the center of my world or to make Hashem the center of my life.

G-d gave us the freedom to make choices in our lives, and we are responsible for what we choose. Life is like a super-market. When you enter you get a cart into which you can put any assortment of items. No one will limit your choices. But at the end of the day, the cashier will take out, register and charge you for every item you chose. So too, when we are born we get a proverbial cart. You can put into it mitzvot, avayrot, foolishness, arrogance - whatever+ you wisht. But at the end of the line the angel will withdraw every act and thought of your essence, weigh it, register it, and charge you. And up above there are no credit cards or checks - it'’s cash on the line.

The way for a Jew to go is to escape the siren’s song of the galut. To take advantage of the huge zechut Hashem has given us - to return home to Eretz Yisrael. It is here where by our concerted efforts we will bring the ge’ula ha’she’layma and indeed turn the days of fasting into holidays-holydays. Here and only here, can we close the historical circle which began in agony and terror and will end in joy, gladness and thanksgiving to Hashem for being born Jews and sharing in the bounty of eternity.

Nachman Kahana

No comments: