Tisha B’Av

It has been a serene, but comforting Tisha B’Av here in Perth.  The sombre tone of the kinot and the luxury of an unrushed Sunday to read through some of the historic tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people provides the opportunity to contemplate and reflect on the unique Jewish experience.  Despite all, we endure.  Rabbi Sacks often points out that the Hebrew language has no word for “history”, only “memory”.  Zachor means not only to recall, but to internalise the lessons of our past.  We do not deny the divine decree, but we do petition G-d for the deliverance of Jewish destiny, an end to exile and a return to peace, joy, and perfection within our own environment. 

My anger invoked from reading last week’s Maccabean will not subside.  We are constantly told that the memory of the Holocaust needs to be preserved to avoid its repetition.  Yet we should be aware that if we can’t remember generations of Jewish persecution and the consequence of exile, we will also ultimately not be able to remember an event that occured within the lifetime of our senior generation.  Tisha B’Av contains kinot regarding the Shoah, and is able to link this to the context of Jewish passage throughout the ages.  I’m starting to agree with the Rabbi’s who advocate that Yom Hashoah should be discontinued and integrated into Tisha B’Av, for it is only this form of commemoration that gives religious meaning to the churban – our sacrifice to our Jewish identity. 

Sacrifice is not just a physical act.  It remains within our liturgy today as an apt metaphor for character refinement.  Our world is complex, and our decisions are complex.  Occurances do not always seem fair, and sometimes people suffer on behalf of other people.  Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.  We learn from all of this not to expect everything exactly the way we want it (even though we have a generation of consumers who believe otherwise).  The Jewish people stand together, accountable for each other and collectively responsible for their subservience to G-d and their obligations to Torah.  So when we have a Jewish public forum in which the very concept of sacrifice can be maligned, and the home of Jewish sacrifice totally rejected, we need to stand up and defend our tradition from destruction. 

There was an incredible presentation last night by a Jewish refugee from an Arab country who related how his Bar Mitzvah was held in secret, how his family’s wealth was plundered, and his family was murdered before his eyes.  He spoke of how he was tortured in prison, escaped through to Europe, and found his way, without resources or knowledge of his surrounds to the shores of Australia.  He talked of how assistance from the community was able to allow him to resettle, and how throughout his whole life he was conscious of his Jewish identity and was able to maintain faith.  It is not appropriate to disclose the identity or details of this amazing story within a blog, but suffice to say that human tolerance for suffering can show strength beyond all comprehensible means, and that hope is something that will always remain part of any Jewish story.

Which is why I wanted to post these thoughts on Tisha B’Av.  Our enemies throughout the ages have persecuted us in the most horrendous means imaginable.  Our survival through this has been due to our unity and refusal to relinquish or beliefs or bithright.  We also have G-d’s promise and convenant that allows us to be sure that Jewish identity will never be destroyed by other nations and foes.  Yet at the same time we are our own worst enemy.  Where is the safeguard against the Jewish people destroying themselves from within?  What chance do we have when amongst ourselves the lack of unity of purpose and rejection of tradition assimilates us and reinterprets our mission to the point where it is unrecognisable?

If we forget Jerusalem, we have no future.  If we do not stand up to assert Jewish soverignty over Har Habayit, then we abandon our cause.  If we don’t have the ability to sacrifice our own false defintions of comfort and wellbeing for the sake of Jewish continuity, we will not merit an end to exile.           

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