So many thoughts are going round in my head as I travel up to Manchester to join Manchester Mizrachi for Shabbat Chazon and Tisha B Av.
If you had told me a few years ago, that I would be a speaker outside the Houses of Parliament at a rally with Iain Dale of LBC about the anti-Semitism of the leader of the Labour party – I would not have believed you.
Al Eileh Ani Bochiah– over these things we weep
If you had told me a few years ago that I would be on a panel about Israel at JW3 and I would be yelled at and called a racist by young Jewish people who disgraced themselves by saying Kaddish for terrorists and were convinced they had done nothing wrong – I would not have believed you.
Al Eileh Ani Bochiah–over these things I weep
And if you had told me that Israel would pass a bill (that celebrates the Jewish nature of the State of Israel, its right to self-determination and its connection to the Jewish people globally). And that the action would be slammed not just by the normal left-wing political and religious groups but also by the Board of Deputies – I would not have believed you.
Al Eileh Ani Bochiah–over these things I weep
However, I read a piece this week, which was both inspiring and depressing. It began the following way
‘Up until the age of 9, I lived in a world where the Beit HaMikdash — the Holy Temple in Jerusalem — actually existed.’
It was written by Michel Avira Samuel – one of the thousands of Ethiopians who came to Israel in 1991 when Israel miraculously airlifted 14000 people to safety in Israel.
She continues: The most powerful educational concept that resonated within children and adults alike in Ethiopia, passed down from generation to generation, was awareness of the need for us to safeguard the purity of our hearts and deeds in order that we would one day be worthy of entering Jerusalem — Heaven on earth.
The ideal of Jerusalem was the force that provided us with the stamina to persevere during the arduous trek through the desert. It was the dream that kept us going. We wanted to reach it, achieve it. We buried our beloved family members, left possessions behind willingly, and lost them to vicious thieves. We struggled to keep going despite the terrible conditions and the hunger, only because of our goal to reach Jerusalem of Gold, and after so many generations, stand at the gates of the Holy Temple.
Then comes the heartbreaking line
Then we arrived and discovered that the Temple had been destroyed.
For Michel and her entire community, the reality of Churban Bayit Sheni only occurred 25 years ago. We have been mourning for 2000 years but for them the pain is so much more real.
Jerusalem did not appear as the place I had so badly yearned to reach. Learning about the destruction of the Temple only as I reached the gates of the Old City was an earth-shattering disappointment, and it left a great void in me that I have been unable to fill. My father, who never ceased to dream for even one moment about Jerusalem and the Temple, saw Jews travelling on Shabbat and witnessed immoral behavior desecrating the sanctity of the city. I could hear his heart breaking anew each time he experienced it.
We are so detached from the essence of our people; we bicker and squabble over such petty issues. Tisha B’Av reminds us we are royalty, we used to serve the King in the Golden Temple in Yerushalayim. We are not simply mourning the destruction of the bricks and mortar, we are mourning the loss of relationship, the loss of intimacy, the loss of connection.
Michel reminds us of what Yerushalayim should be, of what all of us should be. The tears of Tisha B’Av should inspire us to fix the issues that plague us. Some of those issues need strong decisions, difficult decisions in order to change the trajectory of our nation.
However when all is said and done, there is so much to be thankful for as we sit on the floor this Tisha B Av. Yerushalayim is not barren and destroyed, it is the centre of Torah learning in the world. We are not enslaved by the nations; we have returned to our ancestral homeland to re-establish the third commonwealth and we have the ability through the internet and social media to learn and grow in ways we have never been able to before.
Each of those positives comes with a warning – we must make sure Torah is being a light to the world, we must make sure that we remain strong in our homeland and we must make sure that we use technology in an appropriate manner.
These challenges along with all the problems we are facing should embolden us to get up from the floor on Sunday afternoon, and continue the process of rebuilding Bayit Shelishi through our words and actions.
Wishing everyone a meaningful Tisha B Av- and may the tears of pain we shed today, be turned into tears of joy tomorrow. ‘Hashivenu Hashem Elecha, ve nashuva, chadesh yameinu k’kedem’Bring us back to You Hashem, and we shall return, renew our days of old (Eicha 5:21)