On Thursday night of last week we entered into the new month of Av. Av is a month of sadness in the midst of destruction, yet it also contains within it the seeds of hope. The beginning of Av introduces the “nine days,” which culminates in the ninth day of the Hebrew month Av, or in Hebrew, Tish’a b’Av, a 25-hour fast which falls this year on the weekend of August 13th-14th. It began as a mournful remembrance of the historical event of the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians and went on to incorporate many other national catastrophes, up to and including the Holocaust in the 20th century. Our Tradition teaches that Tish’a b’Av calls forth the belief that these national disasters were the result of internal divisiveness, which prevented communal unity and a functioning system of justice. This undermined the nation’s ability to overcome both its external enemies and its internal challenges.
We know this divisiveness as sinat chinam, baseless hatred between individuals. It refers to that kind of enmity that is so irrationally strong as to be oblivious to the cost that it exacts from both the hater and the hated. On Tish’a b’Av, we are to be mindful of this horrible human tendency, and, through the fast, resolve to bring the opposite, ahavat chinam, boundless love, into our community. As it is written in Isaiah 58:6: “This is the fast that I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke; to let the oppressed go free, and to break off every yoke.” We, of many different religious faiths, have much along these lines to think about in our American society today as well as many commitments and resolutions that need to be made for the future. Our national conversation is filled with fear and mistrust rather than hope, love, and sharing of our common core values.
As Jews, It is our responsibility to root out the hatred in our midst and to care for those that are marginalized or treated unfairly, as the Torah guides us, lo ta’amod al dam re’echa, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16). Recent attacks against African Americans and against police officers have caused a rupture in our country’s soul. We have witnessed an upsurge in hatred and violence as well as rising inequality and racial injustice, which greatly impacts people’s lives. In response, we are called to commit ourselves to overcoming these challenges and work towards creating equal opportunities for power, access, and treatment for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, country of origin, or any other classification used to unlawfully and immorally divide people. Our faith demands it, and our world requires it.
In order to heal and find a way forward together, we will be hosting members of other faith communities in central Westchester at Shaarei Tikvah on Sunday, August 14, from 3:00pm to 5:00pm. Here we will discuss the brokenness we face in America while planning together for a better future for our country and its citizens. Joining together as neighbors and people of faith will help us to better understand each other and restore hope in our country. Together, we can work towards fulfilling Isaiah’s words, to observe the “fast that God desires.”