174 rockets were fired at Israel last weekend. Our Holy Land, where the Temple once stood, is under attack yet again.
The 9th of Av, which is observed this year on July 22nd, is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. It is a somber and serious moment in time, marked by fasting and mourning.
On this very day, the first and second Holy Temples, the single-most physical place of G-d in this world – the center of our identity and relationship with Him - were both destroyed.
On the 9th of Av in the year 1290, King Edward I signed an edict forcing the Jews out of England, banishing them from their homes and livelihoods. Two centuries later, on the very same calendar date in 1492, the golden era of Spanish Jewry came to an end as the Jews suffered a devastating expulsion from their homes once again. Almost 500 years later, on the 9th of Av in the year 1914, World War I broke out, wreaking death and havoc in its wake, ultimately culminating in World War II.
There not only seems to be something ominously significant about this moment in time, but perhaps a deeply important life lesson lies within this historically tragic day. What was G-d teaching His people? And why?
We’re all familiar with Noah’s ark, the ferocious flood, and how G-d destroyed the entire world, save for the few who took refuge in the ark. We’re equally familiar with the reason for this unprecedented punishment: human beings, G-d’s creations, behaved unforgivably cruelly to one another.
Fast forward to the era of The Tower of Babylon: man rebelled against G-d, fighting Him mightily. This time, G-d opted neither for death, nor destruction, instead He chose to separate His people, to disperse them across the four corners of the world.
As a parent, there is one thing I value in my children above all others. And that is their strength in unity. When they team up and act together, regardless of the circumstances, there is an inherent pleasure in knowing that they care about, respect, and love each other. Even when their togetherness may be put to - what we as parents may term – “shady use”, we still find joy in the knowledge that they’ve got each other’s backs (perhaps even cutting them some slack). How joyful is it when our children enjoy each other’s company. How sorrowful to see them fight… And herein lies the difference between the people of Noah’s era and those living during that of The Tower of Babylon.
We are taught, in a generation during which the temple has not been rebuilt, it is as though it has been destroyed yet again.
Imagine our Father’s sorrow upon seeing our senseless hate toward one another. Imagine His disappointment. This dear friends, is the root of the unfortunate occurrences of the 9th of Av.
G-d, as every loving father, does not want to remain angry with His children. G-d is waiting for our baseless hatred to be replaced with unconditional love.
We are all G-d’s children, and He is our father. No father expects all his children to be the same; his wish is for each one to grow up with his or her own unique ideas, talents, aspirations, and vision. Our Father in heaven expects, and hopes that we will respect each other, and respect each other’s right to each choose our own path. We may not always agree, we may possibly see white when another sees black, a square when others see a circle; we may be opposed to another’s choice, lifestyle, beliefs. Yet we need to respect each other. Much like the respect and love for your own flesh and blood, despite the many differences you may encounter.
In today’s day and age, everyone identifies with one cause or another - many good and worthy – although often not our own. There is no place in society for such monumental chasms built on baseless hatred.
This day, the 9th of Av, reminds us of what is truly important: care and concern for each other, not for one cause or another, is, and should be, at the core of our identity. Our love for our fellow should run deeper than our philosophies on life.
Do not change your ideas or beliefs to fit those of someone else, but love them despite the differences.
After all, we are family. One family.
May the third and final Temple be built speedily in our day. May we usher in the time of the redemption, when there will be no more sorrow and no more pain.
Rabbi Mendel Kessler
Chabad of Sedona