Dear B’nai Shalom members, friends, and families:
Before I share the main contents of this bulletin article’s topic, I want to profusely thank all of you who have lent your support to Robin and me during this, my recuperation period from hip replacement surgery.
The manner in which so many of you have provided kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, and generosity of spirit and resources is incredible. We both are touched, honored, and humbled beyond words. But because it IS with words that we communicate and attempt to express that which is in our hearts, I thank you far more than I can say in these few and simple expressions of appreciation. The full extent of the friendships we have with our B’nai Shalom family members has again shown itself in a display of warmth and devotion for which we are both extraordinarily grateful. Thank you and may we always be together in good health for good occasions and smachot.
With the observance of the profoundly sad, and even tragic day of Tisha B’av just commemorated, we have concluded “the 3 weeks” and “the 9 days”. One may ask: why must we continue to “beat ourselves up” with this ultra sad and depressing portion of the calendar? Let us explore why we need to continue to mark this portion of the Jewish calendar in this manner.
We find ourselves at a time of Jewish history in which we are MAKING history. Never before was there the richness and proliferation of Torah learning that we see all around us: there are more classes, shiurim, yeshivot, Koll’lim, synagogues, outreach organizations, and opportunities for learning, than ever before on the face of the earth in the history of Jews in this world.
So why must we continue to “beat ourselves up” with this profoundly sad and depressing portion of the calendar? Are we not doing a great job?
Our history teaches us that we, as Jews, do marvelously well when we are in exile, when we are in trouble. We never fail to reach out to the Ribono Shel Olam, (Almighty G-d) in the most sincere, genuine fashion when we truly need heavenly intervention, when we need the Lord’s help and saving hand.
However, when we are doing well, living freely and with acceptance by the people, empires or governments in which we find ourselves living – we tend to move away from our Creator, our Heavenly father, and we tend to move towards assimilation and melting into the culture in which we find ourselves.
Take a look at our history during the period of our Shoftim: the period of the Judges. The very basis of Judaism: the belief in one god is shattered to pieces over and over again with out moving towards the ways of our neighbors and often enemies: the nations of Moav, Amon, and the P’lishtim (the Philistines). We abandon our commitment and loyalty to Torah, mitzvot, and our devotion to HaKadosh Baruch.
This happens, and has happened over and over again throughout the annals of our history, repeatedly without our learning our lesson.
When one goes to look for a job, we often see advertisements for potential employers either in the category of “full time” or part time.” When it comes to being a Jew, this choice really is the problem. There is no such thing as a “part time” Jew, being a Jew when it is good for us, when it is convenient for us, when we feel like it, when our Judaism doesn’t get in the way.
We are expected to act “Jewishly” when we eat, sleep, work, play, interact with others, with our family, with strangers, with relatives, neighbors, and anyone we encounter. There is no such thing as a vacation or break from Torah rules or values. Whether we are in a bowling alley, busy at home balancing our checkbooks, trying to sell something, or hard at work at our place of employment, we are bound to act as committed, loyal Jews. This CERTAINLY includes when we are in shul – the home of Hashem, the house of G-d. How we conduct ourselves within the “Mikdash M’at,” the “miniTemple” should go without saying.
When Hashem gave us the original Luchot HaBrit, the Tablets of the Covenant, they were, according to tradition, written by the “finger of G-d” and miraculously engraved through and through in the stone on which they were engraved, all the way through, however, could be read – again miraculously from both sides. According to our tradition, there was no “second side”. There was only Torah and no other interpretation or second story, or any other reason to believe that Torah then or EVER had or has some kind of second story; only the words of G-d and the value of G-d’s Torah, as taught to us by HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
Unlike a coin which HAS a second side, with a second, separate depiction; a different picture, a different image, the Luchot HaBrit were meant to teach us that there is no such thing as moving away, turning away from Torah, there is no such thing as a vacation or break from Torah rules or values.
The Three Weeks remind us that, whether — when it’s “good for the Jews” or chas v’shalom, G-d forbid, NOT so good for us, we are to adhere to the code of Torah which we hold precious to us. And that preciousness is not to be put on hold. We are expected to cling to Torah, protect it, adhere to its commandments, and teach others, so that they too, can benefit in the heightened, enhanced way of life that Torah observance brings with it.
Perhaps in the future, BE”H, G-d willing, we will NOT need the lesson of the Three Weeks, but for now, let us do what we can to eliminate the need and the reason behind it, having to do with our own weakness, and frequent going astray.
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin