Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tisha B'Av

It has been a tough week here in Jerusalem.  I know that as I write this, the cease fire is holding and there is even preliminary talk of a more extended ceasefire. But a few days, we had two terror attacks in Jerusalem, and yesterday we marked Tisha B'av.

Tisha b'Av is the ninth day in the month of Av, a day associated with many great calamities that have befallen the Jewish people, most notably the destruction of the first and second temples in ancient Jerusalem. We are taught that the second temple was destroyed because of the sin of "sinat chinam," translated as "baseless hatred."  On this day, we fast and read the book of Lamentations, making time for ourselves to mourn and look within.

Looking around my world in Jerusalem, this feels extremely relevant. Barely 50 miles away from my beautiful apartment in Jerusalem, two peoples have been at war. In the context of the last 30 days, "baseless hatred" seems like an over-simplication, but in the course of history, it seems to fit.  I cannot confidently take one position about what is going on: this war, this country, this history, these peoples are much too complex.

Everything about the current situation in Israel and Gaza causes me distress. I feel anguish for the young soldiers who face the harsh realities of war, and for their families and countrymen who wait at home for news of their safety. I feel anguish for those residents of Gaza who been displaced from their homes with nowhere to go, and for the significant loss of civilian life, particularly of children. I feel anguish for the citizens of Israel who are constantly on alert for the sounds of air raid sirens, and who then hear echoes of the sirens in the acceleration of a passing motorbike or the murmurs of a refrigerator. I feel anguish for a people who live in a blockaded country, and for the country that creates the blockade. I feel anguish for Jews around the world who face increased violence and anti-Semitic attacks as a result of this war. I feel anguish for the Jewish people, who suffers when thoughtful people disengage from Israel because it seems so hard to understand.

During services yesterday, as we read one of the concluding prayers, I realized something that suddenly seemed so obvious.  As a community, we said together: "Bayom hahu, yih'yeh Adonai echad, u'shmo echad": "and on that day, G-d will be one, and G-d's name will be one." I understood that the actual name of god doesn't particularly matter, and neither does religion. The meaning of oneness is that we treat one another with loving-kindness (gimilut chasidim) and respect, regardless of religion or nationality (or gender or ...)  We can hope for and work toward that day by infusing our lives with loving kindness and respect, and by making space for complexity.


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