This Tuesday marks the Jewish observance known as Tisha B’av. This is a holiday which traditionally commemorates many of the tragedies of Jewish history, a day of fasting and mourning.
Tisha B’av commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples, as well as a number of other calamities of Jewish history, including the expulsion from Spain. While most Reform congregations do not “formally” observe Tisha B’av, as we are no longer “mourning” for the destruction of the Temple, it is important that we consider its message especially at the present time.
Throughout much of Jewish history, Jews were without the ability to withstand those forces that sought their destruction. Today there is a Jewish country with the ability to stand against and defeat those forces that would seek to “drive Israel into the sea.” But this Tisha B’av there is great sadness in the Jewish world: perhaps not so much for the distant past, but for the present. Again we Jews are caught in the midst of hatred, warfare and destruction. Young Jewish lives have been lost, and a great number of Palestinian lives also. And we certainly do not rejoice over that tragic waste of human life.
My thoughts this Tisha B’av: I want to see the Hamas leadership discredited among the people it supposedly leads. I want to see Israel destroy the tunnels that are intended to bring death to Israelis. I want to see a world that demands of Hamas that it not set up offices in hospitals, and missile launching paths in schools and in the midst of heavily populated neighborhoods. I want to see the Palestinian people wake up and realize that life is better than martyrdom. And I want to see the world stop holding Israel to a standard to which it holds no other country in the world. And perhaps as important as any of these wishes: I want to see world Jewry united in this struggle, and to grow in its understanding of what Israel has been confronting, even as the people of Israel seek only to live in peace.
Yes, there is sadness and mourning this Tisha B’av. Israel has lost too many of its young people and we mourn for them and their families. But let us also note that even in violent warfare, Israel has tried to remain humane and to hold fast to our humane ideals-regardless of what the rest of the world says.
May the people of Israel soon know a Shabbat of Shalom.
Rabbi David Greenberg