From sunset last night to tonight was Tish’a B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, on which we commemorate the destruction of both Jewish Temples — the First by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second by the Romans in 70 CE. The day, for traditional Jews, is one of mourning and fasting. However, as a devout Jew who: (a) has no interest in rebuilding a Temple for sacrificing animals, and (b) believes the Dome of the Rock Mosque is one of the most beautiful buildings ever built (and thus I have no interest in seeing it removed from the Temple Mount!!) . . . I’m never quite sure what to do with of this holiday!
Being an empathic person, I am sad for the Jews whose “world” was destroyed when each of those Temples fell, for the lives that were lost to war, and for the people who were dragged into exile by a conquering army or dispersed amongst the nations from the homeland they had known. But I can’t mourn the buildings themselves, and I certainly can’t mourn the loss of a version of Judaism that I don’t care to practice!!
Given my conundrum, I was thinking this morning about how I could honor this holiday. Generally, I believe the goal of all Jewish holidays is the same — we are to find in each of them a way to re-connect ourselves both to G-d and to people throughout history, so that we might remember that though we are but a speck of dust in the eternity of time, we simultaneously are infinitely valuable as part of G-d’s Creation at this very moment . . .
This afternoon, I realized the best way for me to honor this holiday is to ask all of you to do two things with me:
(1) Please think about all the people throughout the course of history who have lost a house of worship or a religious community due to religious intolerance, political upheaval, hatred, and war — not just the Jews of ancient Jerusalem, but Jews during the Spanish Inquisition and under Hitler’s Nazi Empire . . . and not just Jews, but also Muslims during the Crusades, Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, Christians in China and the Near East, Buddhists in Tibet, etc., etc., etc. There are so many examples, and I’m sure each of you knows of examples that I do not know.
2) Once you have thought of eight or ten examples, you’ll probably realize, as I did, that: “It’s enough already!!” But, rather than simply get disgusted at what we humans have done to one another through the course of history, please join me in pledging to yourself that you will, when the opportunity arises, speak out in your local communities on behalf of others whose form of worship may look different from yours.
We may not ever agree on all the theological and philosophical details regarding G-d and religion, but surely we all can agree that G-d would want us both to support one another in our attempts to lead holy lives and to protect one another from religious intolerance, political scapegoating, and the hate that can so easily be bred by ignorance and fear.
Thank you for reading, jen