The Mourning Routine

23 Jul

It is almost Tisha b’Av here in Israel…I have so much to say, but not a lot of time to get my ideas onto the blog.

 It is just that I am beginning to wonder if this 9th of Av fast and experience has become a bit too routine…a bit too set in place.  Yes, so many of us know how to say “may this be the last Tisha b’Av,” but that too has become part of the routine. 

We Jews have become experts at mourning – we do it well – and unfortunately, we do it often…and of course, the world has given us more than our share of reasons to do so.

But, it is clear to me that purpose of our mourning on Tisha b’Av is to remind us of what we are missing – we mourn and blame ourselves for the ongoing state of affairs.  We forever live with the accusatory words of the Talmud hovering over our heads:

“Every generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt, it is as if that generation destroyed it.” (Talmud Yerushalmi, 1:1)

Frankly, it is getting to be a very heavy burden to carry around this kind of collective guilt.  Every year we are reminded of the reasons that the Temples were destroyed: the first because of immoral sexual behavior, murder and idolary, and the second because of sinat chinam – loosely translated as free-flowing hatred for one another.  In the U.S., the Chafetz Chaim foundation reminds us annually that it is lashon hara – gossip and talebearing –  that is preventing the rebuilding of the Temple.  In Meah Shearim, it’s women wearing short sleeve shirts – choose your poison….

The Talmud tells us (Talmud Bavli, Gittin 56a) that “Because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza the Temple was destroyed.” It the goes on to tell us a story about bitter enemies and revenge.  However, the epilogue of the story tells us that it was because of one of the rabbinic leaders at the time that the Temple and Jerusalem were burnt to the ground.

What is going on?

 A study of the same story as it is recorded in the Midrash (Eichah Rabbah 4:2), sheds light on the real story.  There the story is told a bit differently.  It ends with the statement, “and this is the basis of the folksaying, that between Kamtza and Bar Kamtza the Temple was destroyed. Rabbi Yosi says, it was because of Rabbi Zecharia ben Akulus that the Temple was burnt and Jersualem destroyed.”

Without getting into all of the details of the story here, it is clear that the end of the midrash cites two opinions.  The first is what the average person on the street is thinking – that is is because of bitter quarrels, grudges, gossip, and all around failings to care sufficiently about the feelings of other peolple that caused the destruction and keeps the Temple from being rebuilt.  However Rabbi Yosi sets the record straight  – he tells us that it’s not that at all.  That’s just the way it appears – in reality, the Temple was destroyed because of bad, bad rabbinic leaderhip.

Period.

My thinking goes like this: People will always be people.  Some better, some worse.  Of course we should always strive to do better!  But that’s not the reason we are waiting now for 2,000 years to return the crown to the Jewish people – that is rather the result of inadequate leadership.

And of course, that’s how this whole Tisha b’Av thing got started – when 10 leaders of ten tribes of Israel came back to the people and told them that conquest of the land was hopeless – that was the first Tisha B’Av –

The last Tisha BAv can only be forthcoming when we find a way to correct this very serious sin – leaving the people of Israel without relevant, caring, foresighted rabbinic leadership.

May next Tuesday be brighter than this one…..

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2 Responses to “The Mourning Routine”

  1. harvey weinberg Tuesday, July 24, 2007 at 3:48 pm #

    Morey,

    I was debating whether to check my mail today it being Tisha B’Av (its after mincha time!) but I’m happy I did.

    Two comments:

    On the routine issue, I was feeling a bit down yesterday because i was not feeling the sadness of tisha b’av that one should feel. (I wanted to go to har habayit but it didn’t work out) Then while we were saying kinot the kina for the Jews who perished in the holocaust just triggered my tears – the kinah reminded me of my visit to Yad Vesham 2 weeks ago and tisha b’av all of a sudden took on a different meaning. Perhaps, in order to break away from our normal routine we need something to trigger it.

    The second comment relates to what you wrote on the leadership issue — I always viewed Moshe Rabeinu as the Prime Minister and the heads of the Tribes as Ministers. I agree they are both leaders but the Prime Minister is Prime (sort of like “prime”beef” or “prime” such as in Number 1) – do you think that if Moshe had exhibited the leadership of the Prime leader whether he could have curtailed the disaster? Interestingly enough, in last last week’s parsha Moshe blames his not being allowed into the country on the Spies issue and not on the rock hitting issue. Or is that asking too much of any one man?

  2. harvey weinberg Tuesday, July 24, 2007 at 3:49 pm #

    I thought my comment was above?

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