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From the Rabbi 

07/21/2023 11:15:09 AM


Shabbat Devarim:
There Will Be Occasion to Weep



עֵ֤ת לִבְכּוֹת֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִשְׂח֔וֹק עֵ֥ת סְפ֖וֹד וְעֵ֥ת רְקֽוֹד׃         

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 3.4


On 9 Av in the year 70 CE, Roman soldiers in the process of destroying the Second Jerusalem Temple pushed the large stones at the top of the Temple Mount down onto the pavement below. Archaeological excavation of the area found it just as it had been two thousand years before.

Shalom Shir Tikvah Kehillah Kedoshah,*


This week we begin encountering the words of the fifth book of the Torah, Devarim: "words". The parashah suits the time perfectly, for it depicts Moshe Rabbenu and the Israelites at the close of their journey - and the end of his life - reviewing the past forty years and considering what they mean. This journey, from the beginning of the book of Exodus until now, is the story of the life of a people. And as scholar Ilana Pardes suggests in her book The Biography of Ancient Israelthe story of our ancestors is a life not unlike our own individual journeys.


This week, as we near the day of lamentations and sorrow called Tisha B'Av (literally "the ninth [day] of [the month of] Av", our people's communal spiritual situation is that of mourning. Just like when a yahrzeit comes around and you feel a sadness creeping on, our people remembers the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem (the Romans, also, destroyed the second Temple at this time of year) which destroyed our home and set us wandering.


We left Egypt as refugees, in hope or kicking and screaming.

We left Jerusalem as exiles, in sorrow, and for a defiant few, in hope.

Today each one of us is in a state of spiritual wandering, as refugee and as exile.


We are leaving the Egypt of self-deception and social distraction. 

We are in exile from any easy belief that everything will be okay.

We are facing the catastrophic destruction of all that we thought kept us safe, even as our ancestors witnessed the destruction of the wall around Jerusalem, and then, even the holy Temple….


Jewish tradition does not look away from these times of great sorrow, and it’s the best possible lesson for our “see no evil” western society. This is made clear by the fast day of Tisha B’Av. Our people, long-schooled in sorrow, know that unless we can cry, we will not be able to survive.


Fasting is not meant as a sign of sadness over the past, but of a desperate plea for mercy in the future. Fasting is meant to say that we understand our part in what is wrong and we are determined to learn from it.


The last line of the book Eikha, “Lamentations,” which we will recite on erev Tisha B’Av is this:

הֲשִׁיבֵ֨נוּ ה’ ׀ אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ וְֽנָשׁ֔וּבָה חַדֵּ֥שׁ יָמֵ֖ינוּ כְּקֶֽדֶם 

Take us back, O HaShem, to Yourself, O let us come back;

Renew our days as they once were! (Eikha 5.21)


The anguished prophet Jeremiah speaks for us all: we’re too enervated from fear and despair to gather our courage all by ourselves for what lies ahead. We need support, and in Jewish culture we seek out the holy Presence by turning to each other.


Come weep with us on erev Tisha B’Av for all that we’ve lost, and to support each other in facing it. We do not know what will come - we can only do our best to face it together, in kindness for each other’s sufferings that we will not be able to summon if we cannot also grieve for ourselves.


Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Ariel

read more here: Tisha B'Av

In person only: Join Rabbi Ariel and Rabbi Emily Kapor-Mater for the traditional chanting of Eikha, Lamentations, as we enact a ritual created by our ancestors 2000 years ago. Tisha B’Av observes the destruction of the Temple, and allows us to share the grief of too many centuries of persecution, massacre, and homelessness. Coming together allows us to assure each other that we will hold on, together, as we face an uncertain future; fasting demonstrates our determination to learn and to improve our personal and communal Jewish ethics.

Tisha B’Av is a fast day; please do not bring any food or drink to this observance.


* “holy community” - the traditional Jewish way to refer to a congregation of Jews (and the Jew-adjacent)

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