“Thou Shalt Not Separate Thyself from the Community”
Pirke Avot 1:5
On August 11th we will celebrate Tisha B’ Av. It should be on the 10th but we don’t fast on Shabbat, except for when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat. Tisha B’Av commemorates, historically, the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and the final phase of the Spanish Inquisition, as well as the completed destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, folklorically.
When I review the events of these four episodes in Jewish History, I know they have much to teach us both as a congregation as well as a part of the American Jewish nation. The book of Lamentations is read on Tisha B’Av. Chapter one cries out, “How alone she (Jerusalem) sits! The city once great with people! Like a widow she has become, once great among the nations! A princess among provinces has become a slave!” Lamentations tells that the reason Judah and, of course, Jerusalem fell was due to our sinning and denying G-d. The Second Temple fell because, as the Talmud states we denied each other simple dignity and honor. This denial is called “Sinat Henom” (baseless hatred).
The Spanish Inquisition’s final act came long after the Jews of Spain began leaving Judaism for Catholicism because they believed that socially to be Catholic in Spain would grant them social mobility. They did try to compromise by secretly remaining Jews while still outwardly acting as good Catholics. In the end those efforts failed and the ‘Conversos’ were either exiled or murdered.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was not as successful as it could have been because the various Jewish Organizations did not agree on a unified plan. Even the different zealot groups who believed in fighting the Nazis would not coordinate their plans.
The Jewish Community in America is split on how to deal with the immigration issue. Let me talk about the Nazi era and our people for a moment. The Holocaust for our People in Germany did not begin with the Ghettos or the Camps. It began with Isolation and Alienation. The Jews who had come to Germany from other countries and lived there starting careers and families, were deported when the Government of Adolf Hitler, may his name be forever cursed, sought to make Germany ‘Great again’ or should I say Aryan white again.
The Inquisition was the terrible final end for the Jews, who like the Passover Haggadic son, sought to separate from their own people, our people. “What is all this to you and not to me”, the son says. The Conversos said,” What good is being openly Jewish? Better for me not to identify with my people!
The Baseless Hatred of one Jew for the next is seen today in the Jewish Community as well as our Temple. The detrimental effect of the attacks upon active, committed volunteers destroys the community and gives aid to our enemies. People who give of their time and energy with no apparent remuneration deserve to be lauded not lambasted.
The first Temple’s destruction is spoken of in terms of a lack of adherence to G-d’s Commandments. In this day and age, it is not politically correct to speak of closeness to G-d and Temple. The greatest of all Commandments and the first in Torah after the ‘Shma’ is to Love. How sad and dangerous, that to love has become obsolete! Instead Love has been replaced by indifference. The world has become indifferent to those who need! How soon after the indifference will come assaults on Synagogues and Temples, the sources of divine guidance. This will surely lead to community destruction. The last several scandals have involved Jewish people. How long before the entire community is in jeopardy of being harmed? Our Temple is our Community’s shelter during the oncoming storm which, most definitely, is coming. We need to support this institution! Make great use of our creative talents to form that Sukkot Shalom that Tabernacle of Peace over all of us!
If Tisha B’av has taught us anything it is this: We need to pray Together, work Together, identify as Jews Together and Fight together for, if we do not, we all will be destroyed Together.
B’Ahava B’Yachad (Together),