Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Generations of Tears Quench Baseless Hatred

See this article on my Times of Israel Blog page here.

“Tears shed in vain are established for generations.  For it was brought about by the Lord.  On this night my children weep and wail.”  These are words from B’leil zeh Yivkayun, “On this Night Weep,” one of the kinnot, dirges, which we will recite Wednesday evening for the Fast of Tisha b’Av.

We could start saying it today.  The new law passed today limiting judicial oversight in Israel is not just a reason to weep, but like countless Israelis have shown us, it is a reason to march, to yell, to protest.  While Israelis do believe there are aspects of the court system needing reform, it is hard to justify a law such as this one bent on curbing justice.  Look, when one last-surviving-first-joining members of the Palmach, 98 year-old Maj. Gen. Amos Horev comes out against what your doing, maybe your actions aren’t in Israel’s best interests.

It would be easy, because it would be right, to tie the actions of the ruling coaltion to the holiday of Tisha b’Av with the concept of sinat chinam, “baseless hatred.”  We are taught it was such contempt between Jews that brought about the Temple’s destruction.  It is the worst kind of sin because it negates everything about the other person.  If possible, it is even worse when that other person is part of your own family, another Jew – another Israeli.

Another chinam also applies. It comes from our opening verse which mentions, b’chi chinam, “tears shed in vain [baselessly].”  The situation in Israel now seems dire.  While I pray some solution will arise that can reverse this decision, bring together the government and opposition to negotiate, and save Israel and Israelis from further unrest, I am afraid that may not be on the horizon.  That will call tears to flow.  And it is scary there may be no end in sight for the crying of such tears.

Tisha b’Av is a holiday whose themes can be difficult to feel a visceral connection to.  It won’t be so hard this year.  The chaos and upheaval in the streets of ancient Israel will find ready parallels in the protests of today.

There will be one more connection, too.

Our verse refers to “tears established for generations.”  Jews know history isn’t kind to them.  Jews have faced hopeless situations but they never give up hope.  Sometimes, Jewish history can change in seven days or forty.  But sometimes it takes forty years or even two thousand.  The current challenge to law and justice in Israel may not end after days or even months more of protests.  Yet, Tisha b’Av, with all its tears, is hard to relate to.  Because we do live in a world once again with a Jewish State.  It is an imperfect country, to be sure.  It became just a little more imperfect today.  Yet it is still a miracle.  It was a miracle that a generation of heroes like Amos Horev made happen.  It is a miracle that has been perpetuated by countless more heroes of both the famous and unknown kind.  They may not be in sight now, but our history, our holidays, our tears all teach me that new heroes are coming.  Maybe they even include you and me.

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