Thought for Shabbat – July 20, 2018
We all have that person in our lives, the one who doesn’t forget anything. Often it’s a member of our family who begins so many sentences with the words, “Do you remember when…?” And there’s the friend, acquaintance or loved one who cannot stop reminding us of our misdeeds, even years after they occurred.
The ancient Israelites had someone who handled the duties of constantly reminding others of their misdeeds: His name was Moses. As we begin the reading of the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) this week, we hear Moses begin his reminder tour as the people of Israel prepare to enter the Promised Land. Moses knows that he will not enter with them and he may even harbor a little resentment about that fact. Or he may just be concerned for the people. Or maybe his words are a combination of both of those things. But no matter his motivation, he proceeds to remind the people of their misdeeds in the wilderness and cautions them that they cannot repeat those misdeeds when they enter the Promised Land. “Eicha” – How, he wonders, can he deal with their burdensome nature, dealings and fights?
Apparently, his words do not hold and later in their history the actions of our ancestors lead the Prophet Isaiah to remark about Jerusalem, “Eicha – How could a city so faithful, so filled with fair judgment, in which righteousness dwelled, become like a harlot and is now the home of murderers?” These words are recited as part of this week’s Haftarah.
It is no coincidence that that these two readings come together this week as we approach the observance and fast day of Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of Av. This is the day on which we read the Megillah of Eicha, where we remember many of the tragedies that befell the Jewish people. But the core tragedy, the destruction of Jerusalem, is blamed at least in part on the Jewish people themselves. It is blamed on their actions and infighting and inability to resolve their internal conflicts and work together in a non-divisive fashion.
And yet, just a few days ago, right before Tisha B’Av the Israeli Knesset passed the Nation State Law which among other things brings into question the relationship between the Jews in Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora. The original draft of the bill included the language that the State would act to maintain the connection between the State and the Jewish people, wherever they are. That is indeed a noble sentiment. But then, according to the Jewish Federations of North America, the Ultra-Orthodox members of the Knesset demanded that the wording be changed. They demanded that the words “wherever they are” be deleted, changing the language that the State will act in the Diaspora in some way.
Whatever the political motivation of those who proposed the change and those who went along with it for their own political reasons, it is clear that this bit of history is divisive. It is the continuation of the failure of some in Israel to acknowledge the legitimacy of Conservative and Reform Judaism, and even view those strains of Judaism as an enemy of Judaism and Israel. It is an indication of what Rabbi Daniel Gordis calls a “dismissive and hostile attitude in Israel toward American Jews”. It is an indication that we as a people have yet to learn the lessons of Moses, Isaiah and Tisha B’Av. Eicha – How will we resolve this growing divide? I do not know, but it is very clear that we are bound to do so. Our history and our future demand it, no matter what religious stream we affiliate with.
Rabbi Yaier Lehrer
With illnesses and traveling of some of our members, we could really use help this weekend with our services this weekend. Come and bring a friend. If you don’t have a friend, make one. Friday night we pray at 7:15 pm, Saturday morning at 9:45 and Sunday at 9:00 am.