This week we began the three weeks of mourning from 17th Tammuz till the 9th Av. My personal mourning for my father now combines with the national mourning of the Jewish people.
Sometimes the three weeks come along and we find it hard to connect to the sadness of the days – the sun is shining, school is ending, holidays around the world are beginning.
This year it is a completely new world – there is plenty to connect us to these days of introspection and reflection. There is fear, sadness and confusion the world over.
This week on the fast day, Rabbi Sacks posted a video entitled “Seven Principles for Maintaining Jewish Peoplehood.” In the introduction he commented:
‘Today is the Fast of Tammuz and the start of the Three Weeks, a period of intense sadness in the Jewish calendar when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile from Israel. This period culminates with the saddest day in the Jewish calendar – Tisha B’Av, the Fast of the 9th of Av. The Rabbis of the Talmud blamed the demise of the Temples (both the first and second one) and other Jewish tragedies on sinat chinam, Hebrew for baseless hatred, and the divisions this caused among the people. Many of these principles are more necessary and relevant today than ever before. In this era of increasingly divisive and extreme politics and cultural division, the Three Weeks are a time where we focus on the importance of unity both within the Jewish people, and in terms of trying to find ways of coming together as a global society.’
In the video (I recommend highly you watch the entire 7 min clip) he says the following:
‘Ours is the only civilisation I know whose canonical texts are anthologies of arguments. The prophets argued with God; the rabbis argued with one another. We are a people with strong views – it is part of who we are. Our ability to argue, our sheer diversity, culturally, religiously and in every other way, is not a weakness but a strength. However, when it causes us to split apart, it becomes terribly dangerous because whilst no empire on earth has ever been able to defeat us, we have, on occasions, been able to defeat ourselves.’
So we need to argue, but how should we argue?
There are many other reasons given in the Gemara for the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash – I will be giving a special shiur next Sunday on Zoom for the end of my Dad’s Shloshim when I will be discussing them in detail. For now, let us just focus on one:
R Hanina said “Jerusalem was destroyed only because people did not rebuke each other” So we do need to rebuke each other, raise issues and disagree. Yet, in our PC and pluralist society, you are not allowed to rebuke anyone anymore, tell them they are wrong for fear of offending them.
However, we must also remember that the concept of rebuke in Torah comes from a position of love and distress that a fellow Jew could be acting in such a way. There is no room for violence or hatred.
As we watch with dismay the ‘cancel culture’ that is sweeping western society, that anyone who expresses opinions counter to the ‘correct’ one will be silenced. We hope and pray that within our community we will still be able to have healthy and forthright discussions about Israel, Torah, Jewish education and Jewish identity within our wide and diverse Jewish community.
My Dad and I did not always agree on Israel, Politics or Football, yet never did I feel that our relationship was in any way weakened by our difference of opinion. On the contrary it made for healthy debate and discussion. Similarly, the disagreements we may have with other Jews, must come from the position of realising we are a family, a family I care very much about but a family that I will be honest with my opinions. As Rabbi Sacks says:
‘Jews will never agree on everything, but we remain one extended family. If you disagree with a friend, tomorrow they may no longer be your friend. But if you disagree with your family, tomorrow they are still your family. In the end, family is what keeps us together, and that is expressed best in the principle “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh”, All Jews are responsible for one another.’