DON'T FORGET TISHAH B'AV--
THIS TUESDAY, JULY 24
By the CyberRav-Rabbi Rafi Rank
Last night, one of the great urban centers in the world, lovingly described as the city that never sleeps, was put to bed, for good, by an enemy offensive of massive proportions. A city that once teemed with artists, musicians, financial wizards, and great scientists, has become a ghost town. Those who survived the attack wander aimlessly around smoldering fires and rubble, dazed and dying of hunger. New York City has died.
This doomsday scenario may seem a grotesque fantasy, but similar scenarios have unfolded in the past and the Jewish people is no stranger to them. In Tanakh, the Bible, we read about the death of Jerusalem in 586 BCE:
"Alas! Lonely sits the city once great with people! She that was great among nations is become like a widow; the princess…has become a prisoner" (Lamentations 1:1).
"…As babes and sucklings suffer in the squares of the city. They keep asking their mothers, 'Where is bread and wine?' as they languish like battle-wounded in the squares of the town, as their life runs out…" (Lamentations 2:11-12).
If any of us can read those lines with emotional detachment, perhaps it is because we have forgotten Jerusalem. After all, that trauma took place 2600 years ago and today we live, by comparison, as kings and queens ourselves. Nevertheless, the distinctive character of the Jewish people is to forever remember. This Monday evening, July 23, 2007, begins the fast of Tishah B'av, the day dedicated to remembering the destruction of Jerusalem, both as it occurred in 586 BCE and again in 70 CE.
Memory is a tool that links us in a distinctive chain of identity. Because we remember, we become those people. Because we turn ourselves into mourners-by fasting and wearing non-leather shoes, sitting on the floor, all Tishah B'av traditions-we become the victims of those two great destructions. We become at one and the same time, the Jews who died and the Jews who never died. And the event itself makes us think about our connection with the city we lost and the land from which we were exiled.
Jerusalem, a city that was destroyed first by the Babylonians and then by the Romans, is up and about these days, once again filled with creative, intelligent, spiritual beings. Our mourning on Tishah B'av, to be taken seriously for sure, must also be tempered by the miracle of the twentieth century, the rebirth of Israel and the establishment of Jerusalem as its eternal capital. In spite of all the nonsense that goes on in the Middle East and the world in general, what a blessing it is to live at a time when we can all be witness to the building and thriving of the Jewish State. We all have a responsibility keep her alive, healthy and strong, and we do that in part by never forgetting the stark lessons of our past.
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