Parasha Devarim

With full respect to Parsha Devarim, I would like to touch on Tisha B'av and its liturgy.  We will be commemorating Tisha B'Av Saturday night and Sunday morning.  It is said "with the advent of the month of Av we diminish our joy."   The Kinot ritual we will be doing Sunday morning first brings out the aspects of our triumphant Exodus from Egypt: the redemption followed by the plagues, the splitting of the sea, giving of the Torah, the manna, the clouds, the traveling water well, and so on.

Then, as if toying with our emotions, we see the rioting and ransacking, the fire and smoke of devastation, tears from families being torn apart, famine and starvation, captivity and servitude, war, sickness, death, and mourning of the destruction of the Temple.   We are taken from the highest heights to the lowest of the lows.

The concept is not original, nor mine, but we can take some consolation from the fact that nearly two thousand years after the destruction of Jerusalem and our exile, the Jewish people are still standing (for those of you that have been to Israel recently, still standing "tall").   We have been oppressed all over the world but time after time have left our positive stamp on humankind. A small group of us are even perched and flourishing on the plains just north of the Alamo for over 125 years!

Having spent many, many summers at Camp Ramah I recall hearing the story of the "fox" more than once, and it is only now as an adult that my inner soul feels its true meaning.  Rabbi Akiva and three other sages were walking in Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple.  As they approached the site of the Temple Mount, a fox came scurrying out from the ruins of the Temple.  Mindful of the prophesy, "On desolate Mount Zion, foxes will roam," (Eicha 5:18), the sages began to cry and mourn the destruction of our Holy Temple.  Rabbi Akiva only laughed.

Why, they questioned?  He reminded them the entire prophesy had two parts -- the first half dealt with destruction and the second with redemption.  If the first part dealing with destruction came true exactly as foretold, then the rest must also be true, and our redemption is at hand.  The Talmud (Makot 24b) tells us the sages replied, "Akiva you have comforted us; Akiva you have comforted us."

Please join us tomorrow night at 9:15 PM and Sunday morning at 9 AM to commemorate this solemn day.   This is the one weekday that we do NOT wear our tefillin

Our sages teach in Isaiah 66:10, "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her."  Whoever mourns properly for Jerusalem will be rewarded by experiencing its rejoicing.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham

Please note that Rabbi Abraham will be away next Shabbat.  His message will return on August 7th.