Parasha Devarim and Tisha B'Av

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 this 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 fromEgypt: the redemption followed by the plagues, the splitting of the sea, giving of the Torah, the manna, the clouds, the traveling 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 low.

The concept is not original, nor mine, but we can take some consolation from the fact in nearly two thousand years after the destruction ofJerusalemand our exile, the Jewish people are still standing (for those of you that have been toIsraelrecently, still standing “tall”).   We have been oppressed all over the world but time after time have left our positive stamp on humankind, and a small group of us are even perched and flourishing on the banks of the Hudson for over 120 years.

Having spent many, many summers at Camp Ramah I recall the 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 Jerusalemafter the destruction of the Temple.  As they approached the site of the TempleMount, a fox came scurrying out from the ruins of the Temple.  Mindful of the prophesy, “On desolate MountZion, foxes will roam,” (Eicha 5:18), the sages began to cry and mourn the destruction of ourHolyTemple.  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.”

This year, we will be hosting the Conservative community reading of Eicha on Sunday, at 9 AM.   Please make an effort to attend, as friends from all of Rockland will be joining us, and we want to have a good showing.   This is the one morning of the year that we do NOT wear our tefillin (other than Shabbat).   Please join us on this solemn day, followed by a teaching session with Judith Rose: “Where? And How?  A Midrashic and Psychospiritual Perspective on Tisha B’Av”.

Our sages teach in Isaiah 66:10, “Rejoice withJerusalemand be glad for her.”  Whoever mourns properly forJerusalemwill be rewarded by experiencing its rejoicing.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham