Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Crying for the Temple and Everything Else

I attended a Tisha B’Av program this morning at the Zayit Raanan synagogue in Efrat, organized by Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein. Rabbi Grunstein explained that when we’re reading the kinot (lamentations) on Tisha B’Av day, we shouldn’t only be thinking, “Oh these terrible things happened to us 2000 years ago [http://voices-magazine.blogspot.com/2011 /08/tisha-bav-calamities-through-history.html]. ”
No, the troubles and the trials that the Jewish faced 2000 years ago continue today.

When the kinot talk of the hate our enemies feel toward us, they’re not just talking about the Romans. It’s talking about our enemies throughout the generations.
Archbishop of Constantinople John Chysostom (349-407) who was sainted and honored for his eloquence in public speaking said, “The Jews most miserable of all men…lustful, rapacious, greedy, perfidious bandits, inveterate murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil.” St. John continued, “They know only one thing, to satisfy their gullets, get drunk, to kill and maim one another…They have surpassed the ferocity of wild beasts for they murder their offspring and immolate them to the devil…”
We don’t have to go back 1700 years to see the hate of our enemies. Yehoshua showed a video of Arabs rioting in the streets on November 29, 1947 when the UN voted for the establishment of the State of Israel. Then he told the story of a young man recently who made a wrong turn from Hadassah Hospital Mt. Scopus into an Arab village. His car was stoned, and he barely escaped with his life.
When we lament that we called to our “loved ones” and yet they rejected us, we don’t need to go so far back in history to see our fair weather friends turning on us again and again. Throughout modern times, our "friends" and allies have turned their backs on us.
Abba Eban wrote in his biography that when Israel agreed to withdraw from the Sinai in 1957, it was with a written understanding from UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold that the UN would “prevent belligerency”. However when Egypt demanded that the UN Emergency Force withdraw its troops, U Thant acceded within only a few hours. Welcome to the Six Day War.
Our friend US President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone,” but when Israel needed the US at the moment that Arab armies amassed on all its borders and Egypt had closed the Straits of Tiran, the US State Department announced on June 5, 1967 (the first day of the war), “Our position is neutral in thought, word and deed.”

Rabbi Grunstein asked how Jewish women could possibly eat the babies that they loved and nurtured. Indeed this is one of the questions that cause Jews to cringe every Tisha B’Av. He brought examples from the nightmarish days of the Holocaust when brothers stole food from one another and even from their parents. He told of the hunger in the Warsaw Ghetto and how non-Jews were given about 2500 calories a day, while Jews were given 200. He quoted Devora Berger on the hunger in the Lodz Ghetto. She spoke of her mother who made ersatz Turkish coffee and from the “botz” made meatballs. “When you’re hungry, you’ll eat everything.”
Every high school student learns the story of the 400 Jewish children who committed suicide – diving into the sea as their ship headed toward Rome – rather than become slave prostitutes for the Romans. Well, stories of Jewish purity are well known from the Holocaust as well. Even the New York Times printed a story on January 8, 1943 about 93 Bais Yaakov girls who committed mass suicide rather than become the prostitutes of Nazi soldiers. They died with prayer, poison and purity. Hashem yinkom damam.
The tortures and ordeals of the Jewish people that we cry about on Tisha B’Av don’t only deal with the destruction of our Temples on Tisha B’Av or even the other Tisha B’Av calamities. We cry on Tisha B’Av for all the horrors that our people have experienced throughout the milllenia on Tisha B’Av and on any other day throughout our history.
And we pray that Hashem will return us to the Israel that He always hoped we would create. The Israel of peace, of kindness, of brotherly love, of belief and, naturally, of Torah and mitzvoth.
I hope your Tisha B’Av was meaningful.

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