By Rabbi Malka Drucker, Rabbinic Cabinet

Tisha B'Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, is known as a black fast, marking the destruction of the first Temple in 586 BCE, and the second Temple in 70 CE. With the final defeat, the Jewish people lost 25 percent of the population and lived for 2000 years in exile.

In addition to fasting, we remember these tragedies by sitting low to the ground in the posture of mourners to recite Eicha (Lamentations) and mournful liturgy specific to Tisha B'Av. It is a day so dark that it carries the unique prohibition even to study Torah, itself considered a joy — only the Book of Job and parts of Jeremiah are allowed.

Tradition teaches that we lost the first Temple because we didn't keep the laws, but by the time of the second temple, the Israelites were scrupulously observant. Observance, however, wasn't enough: The second Temple was destroyed because of sinat hinam, causeless hatred between Jews.

The need to guard against sinat hinam begins at home. American Jews who care about Israel are deeply divided over its relations to the Palestinians, and our divisions too often create animosity that blocks our ears and hearts to one another. Brit Tzedek's Listening Projects are intended to halt the growth of causeless hatred among American Jews.

When we forget that we are called to bring heaven to earth by behaving with love, we risk not only harming our own spiritual connection or our community, but the world itself. Tisha B'Av is the day we acknowledge our regret for what might have been. If only our people 2000 years ago had behaved with love and mercy instead of hatred...

But before we fall in too deep an abyss of regret, the tradition informs us that the Messiah will be born on Tisha B'Av. From that day on, no one will be hungry, war will be memory, and none shall fear another. May our sorrow end with faith and a resolve to do better. Brit Tzedek exercises our resolve by working to bring peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.


Suggestions for Tisha B'Av:

1. Read Eicha (Lamentations). Discuss how it may be seen as a cautionary tale about the horror of growing indifferent to the suffering of others.

2. Discuss how collective mourning can help us face ourselves individually. How do we demonize others? How can we sow empathy and forgiveness?

3. Support every effort for peace. Behavior is contagious, and peace breeds peace. The continuation of the occupation eats away at Israel's spirit; reconciling with the Palestinians, however, could lead the country from strength to strength. When the world is healed, we are healed with it.

4. Sign on to Brit Tzedek's Message to the President, Don't Let Gaza Fail!

5. Organize a Listening Project in your community. Contact chapter@btvshalom.org for more information.

If you have other ideas, please contact the Religious Affairs Committee at rac@btvshalom.org.

Rabbi Malka Drucker's website is http://www.malkadrucker.com/.

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206
info@btvshalom.org
www.btvshalom.org


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