Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–D’varim

This weekend is Tisha B’Av. On the 9th Day of Av, horrific things have happened to Jews. Both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem crumbled on this date. The Crusades began on this date. Jews suffered expulsion from England and Spain on this date. NAZI Germany announced its final solution on this date. On this date, the AMIA building (the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina) experienced an act of terror, killing and injuring about 400 people. It is a horrific date.

This weekend is Tisha B’Av. On the 9th Day of Av, the sages teach us that the Messianic Age will become real.

We live in a world of extremes, and our quest is to find some sense of wholeness in its midst. The world rhetoric does not seem to help us much, as we are polarizing from each other.

Almost, as perfectly timed, we begin a new book of Torah this week: Deuteronomy. The book contains Moses’ lengthy farewell address and a retelling of our story. Moses will recount everything from creation through his present … facing Israel standing on the cusp of entering the land of Israel. Some parts of the story will change: perspective has a way of doing that. The essence of his conversation with the people, though, revolves around their nationhood. They are disparate tribes. Each tribe will have its own land to settle. Each tribe inherited a different blessing from the original patriarch Jacob. Still and all, though, each tribe descends from that same Patriarch making everyone first cousins (albeit now many times removed).

40 years in the wilderness. They faced trial after trial. They put up the camp and tore down the camp. After all that, Moses felt it his top priority to remind them that they are one family who suffer together, fight together, celebrate together, govern together, and worship God together. So long as they remember that they are in this together, they can endure anything.

This is the message of Tisha B’Av. The history of the day is horrible, but we have the power to rethink how that history speaks to our future. Businesses, friendships, and families split over the need to live in the events of the past. IF yesterday’s fight is our tomorrow’s conversation, while yesterday’s celebrations remain in the past, we are doomed to failure. We cannot help what has happened, and our past is not our destiny. Maimonides taught that even while the destruction of Jerusalem and its inhabitants was mournful, ultimately, it propelled us into the next evolution of our destiny. Being a light to the nations cannot work unless we live amongst the nations. Ultimately, the destruction of the animal sacrifice altar gave way to the altar of loyalty and faith that is our nefesh and neshama … our spirit and soul. In retelling our story, Moses reminds us that whatever happened yesterday, we are about to walk into a whole new venture.

We are about to enter Israel, a land flowing with milk and honey. We are about to start life all over again in a new land with new resources. We have a choice. We can choose to dwell on all of the nightmares of the past. We could, however, also choose to take our next steps into a new opportunity. We, as a people have always looked at the disasters planned for us, and relished that they exist in history books while we keep writing new history. “U’v’charta b’chayim, therefore choose life.” When we stop seeing ourselves as vessels in which to store our historical pain, we can transform into a vessel from which we draw healing. When we can all commit to this choice, we will experience the Messiah and the celebration of renewal and opportunity. What hurt me yesterday cannot hurt me anew, unless I let it. Today is my opportunity to shine.

Ani ma-amin b’emunah shlaemah biviyat hamashiach–with perfect faith, I believe that the Messianic Age will come.” Stop living in the past. Let go of the grudges that hold you back. Let go of the prejudices that cloud your step into the future. Join me in celebrating today and tomorrow … and each day anew, thereafter. With all the ugliness out there, we cannot let it continue to dictate the infection that festers in our spirit. Rabbi Karen Kedar once wrote a tribute to a dear friend who had passed away. “Hold tight to your soul and join me in the waltz of God.” Shabbat Shalom.