This Thursday I will be marching in the gay parade in Jerusalem, after marking Tisha B’av (the Ninth of Av) earlier in the week, with the reading of Lamentations and other customs associated with mourning.
Every year camp counselors confront a dilemma: what content is appropriate for Tisha B’Av when this fast day occurs during the camp season. Should the campers be expected to fast? The counselors? In many cases, commemorating Tisha B’Av is reduced to cancelling swimming or programming an activity related to the rabbinic midrash of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza on the destruction of the Temple. What indeed is Tisha B’Av’s place in contemporary society?
At the outset, I would like to stress the importance of the laws of Tisha B’av. On the one hand, I believe that it is very important to fast on Tisha B’av and to remember the Destruction in our day, even after the rebirth of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem. On the hand, there are many stringencies connected to “the three weeks” between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, which were added in the Middle Ages by Aveilei Tziyon [= Mourners of Zion] and Ashkenazic rabbis, which have no Talmudic basis and which, in my opinion, there is no reason to observe.
According to Jewish tradition, five events took place on the 17th of Tammuz: Moses smashed the tablets of the Law, the daily offering was abolished at the time of the Second Temple, the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Roman general Titus, and the Torah scroll was burnt by Apostamos, who also erected an idol in the Temple (time unknown).
As a Zionist and a religious Jew, I see God’s hand in the rebirth of the Jewish state, and the subsequent restoration of ancient Jerusalem and the Temple Mount to Jewish sovereignty. In fact, while most religious Zionists believe that the State of Israel marksthe beginning of the burgeoning of our redemption, my sense is that this rebirth and restoration are the totality of the promised redemption foretold by the prophets of yore, for which Jews have prayed for 2000 years.
I had the privilege of spending July 12-17, 2012 in Kiev as part of a joint mission of the Schechter Institute and Masorti Olami to install Rabbi Reuven Stamov as the first Masorti rabbi in the FSU. I taught this topic to the members of the mission at Kehillat Masoret, the new Masorti synagogue in Kiev, on Shabbat, July 14th. DG
One of the strangest tales told about the destruction of Jerusalem, its Temple and its inhabitants is to be found in the Babylonian Talmud (Gittin 57b; Sanhedrin 96b) concerning an encounter between Nebuzaradan and Zechariah Ben Yehoyadah. Though these two Biblical personages lived two and a half centuries apart, according to the Talmud they “met” on the Temple Mount during its destruction in the year 586 BCE.
In light of the rebirth of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem, should we continue to fast on Tisha B’avand the other three fasts which commemorate the Destruction of the Temple?
During the second week in July, we note the seventeenth day of Tammuz, the day on which the walls of the city of Jerusalem were breached by Roman forces almost two thousand years ago. This event hastened the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the ninth day of Av, 70 C.E., which occurs this year on July 30. These distant events take on contemporary meaning as we contemplate the reasons our Sages gave for this disaster.
The age-old adage – “does the person make the job or the job make the person?” is being framed quite differently today. The rewording does not change the question: Are we in charge of our destinies? Are we shaped by our surroundings? Or are we a product of our genetic makeup? The nature-nurture argument has not gone away. It is being fought on different grounds: grounds that often frighten people into avoiding scientific facts and claiming that they just do not understand.