Tisha B'Av - the 9th of Av

Tisha B'Av is one of the most solemn days of the Jewish Calendar. On it, we mourn the destruction of both Temples, both said to have been destroyed on this date (Av being a Hebrew month) as well as various other disasters, including the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290 and Spain in 1492 having occurred on this day. Growing up I remember attending very moving Tisha B'Av services, which were expanded to include other human disasters like Hiroshima - a day to mourn our inhumanity towards one another if you will.
One of the most taught texts around Tisha B'Av is that of Kamsa and Bar Kamsa from the Babylonian Talmud (Gittin 56a). The story is essentially understood as being about needless or causeless hatred between Jews, hatred which used the destruction of the Temple.
From Oslo to London, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, there's been a lot of hatred witnessed of late, hatred accompanied by violence, with causes and justifications given, but all rather pathetically. Yet while it has always been an important part of the fast for me that we in the progressive world acknowledge humanity's cruelty to one another on a wider level, there is something important for us as a Jewish community in taking time to consider the needless hatred and division we allow to permeate our community, particularly in the UK. We waste so much energy, print space, and creativity worrying about what and how everyone else is doing, and/or what they'll think about what I'm doing. We obsessively try to place things in boxes and forms which have little relevance to being a good Jew, or a good person, and often criticise and undermine out of ignorance. We also let things slide out of ignorance, unsure how to challenge or break the box open.
Perhaps we need to worry less about what the other guy does, and more about what I can learn from them. Less about where she prays, and more about whether everyone has a prayer experience that will ensure they get what they need to sustain themselves and their spiritual life. I know my home model is very unique, and it does take patience for a practising orthodox Jew to live with and love me, and vice versa (good job he probably gave up reading these months ago as he hates the label orthodox!) but surely such a small community doesn't have the resources or time to be throwing stones at one another, when we could be (and often are) building schools, JCC's, etc. Perhaps G has it right, and labels are just really unhelpful. Ours is the generation of grass roots and wandering Jews. We don't need labels, we need engagement. As Denis Prager wrote over a decade ago, perhaps we need to talk about engaged and disengaged Jews, rather than box people into denominations.
Even within denominational communities how we engage with one another can be less than kind, and surely this is the message we need to take from Tisha B'Av this year. Enough of the needless hatred and the looking over our shoulders at everyone else. Let's be engaged Jews, fulfilling ourselves and our prophet's dreams of building a messianic age of peace and friendship for all, everywhere. Consider your homework set! :)


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