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Time's Wound: The Month of Av

07/14/2021 10:46:18 AM


The list of terrible things that happened during this month is truly daunting.  In Torah, time is "sticky." Good events collect on certain days as do bad ones on other days.  :Good things happen in Adar and this early spring month is an auspicious time; an example is Purim.  Av is the opposite; occurring on the other side of the year, the month overflows with tears.  Here is a summary:

The destruction of both Temples and the exile of the Jewish people from our land. (586 BCE and 70 CE)

The fall of Betar, the last stronghold of the Bar Kochba Revolt, our last attempt to throw off Roman tyranny. (135 CE)

The razing of Jerusalem (135 CE) and its renaming by the Roman General Turnus Rufus: "Aeolia Capitolina," a city dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter.  The Romans also renamed the province of Judea in an attempt to erase the Jewish people, calling the region "Palestina" after the Philistines, a nation that had ceased to exist hundreds of years before. 

The beginning of the first Crusade by Pope Urban in 1096, resulting in generations of slaughter and persecution.

The expulsion of Jews from England, France and other Western European countries, starting in 1290.

The final and worst expulsion of the Middle Ages: the expulsion of the Jews of Spain in 1492. 

The outbreak of World War I in 1914, which led directly to the Holocaust and the untold losses of the Second World War. 

Himmler receives approval from the Nazi Party in 1941 to implement the "Final Solution" to the "Jewish problem."

The beginning of the deportation of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka, 1942. 

The bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1994.  No one has been convicted of this terrorist attack, which resulted in 85 deaths and more than 300 injured.  The attack has been linked to Iran's proxy, Hezbollah. 

According to the rabbis, it is human action that sets the pattern for a day's or a month's sticky energy.  The infection in time that contaminated the 9th of Av was the Jewish people's rejection of the Covenant and the Land of Israel following the defection of the 12 scouts: leaders of our people who had gone ahead of the nation to scout the land prior to our entry.  The report that the scouts brought back: the land was truly beautiful and blessed, but inhabited by fearsome giants who would destroy us all, was enough to send the people into a panic, demanding and actually organizing to return to Egyptian slavery. 

This spectacular failure of faith -- faith in G-d, faith in each other, faith in themselves -- tore open a hole in time.  Tisha B'Av did not cause all of these catastrophes, but by opening a tear in history to the darkness, the forces of dissolution and chaos were strengthened and continue to be strengthened. 

The Torah does not tell us to destroy evil but rather to do good.  The hole in the world, the wound in time, is cleansed by acts of compassion and closed up and healed by radical acts of love.  The agents of darkness in the world need to be constantly nurtured by their source -- confronting them directly, like blowing on a fire, sometimes only causes them to flare up hotter.  But hate, like darkness, must retreat before love.  

 On the Ninth of Av, Sunday, we fast, read the Book of Lamentations, invoke tears.   We work on our ability to empathize, to feel others' pain deeply.  We begin with the pain of our own history -- not to revel in suffering but to transcend it.  Empathy is the beginning of growth and compassion is the greatest motivation to the radical love needed to effect tikkun olam, the repair of the world.  In healing ourselves, we begin to find the healing of the world.  




Thu, June 20 2024 14 Sivan 5784