The Shofar, Temple Beth El’s monthly publication, keeps community and temple members up to date on what’s going on. Take a look at this month’s Shofar to see what’s coming up or browse through the archives to see all that we’ve done!
The Rabbi’s Ruminations (from the July Shofar)
The Beginning of our Efforts to Renew
The month of August brings with it the saddest season in the Jewish calendar, the nine days leading up to the saddest day, Tisha B’Av, when we commemorate destruction. The destruction of the First and Second Temples. The day that the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was lost. The first day of the Inquisition. In Jewish imagination, virtually every catastrophic moment in our history is associated with this dreadful day of fasting and deprivation, on one of the hottest, blistering days of the entire year. This is as close to “hell” as we get—heat, misery, damnation—hell being a concept we don’t actually embrace (many assume otherwise. There are some who consider it an intervening stop on our way to a next stage, but it’s really a Christian
concept). The “Three Weeks,” from the 17th of Tammuz (when the city’s walls were breached) until Tisha B’av, the day that we have sociologically defined as the nadir of the human condition, an unleashing of the world’s worst impulses. Six months ago, we learned that “One who enters Adar increases joy,” a “month in which sorrow is reversed to joy” (Esther 9:22); six months later, it behooves us to remember that “One who enters Av lessens joy” (M. Ta’anit 4:6). Tisha B’av, a day that truly lives in infamy.
On Tisha B’av, we learn that the Messiah will be born (Jerusalem Talmud, B’rachot 2:4). On the darkest day, the seeds of redemption will also come to be. If Tisha B’Av is rock-bottom, then the ensuing weeks will raise us up. Liturgically, Tisha B’av begins a cycle of prophetic readings that emphasize nechemta, consoling, all the way up to Rosh Hashanah.
So it is with so many of us. We experience painful epochs in our lives, we suffer in unpredictable ways, and we have little to no control over the things happening around us — sometimes to us— which cause us suffering. Destruction. Loss. Grief. And yet out of those ashes, we can be reborn, rejuvenate, reincarnation within our one lifetime. Embracing today as not defined by yesterday. We can reconstruct our lives, continue our forward march, hoping—praying—that we have the wherewithal to take the reins, surpass the sadness, emerge stronger, wiser, more blessed than ever.
We enter this dark (or should I write “blistering hot”) month of Av with the next month, Elul, just around the corner; soon we will join together with prayers of t’shuvah (repentance), seeking kapparah (atonement), moving as a community toward self-improvement, Hishtaprut (from the same root as Shofar).
|As we crank up our air conditioners (side note: you will hear more from me about this, as I am working with the state to encourage energy sustainability as partof their efforts to incentivize better energy practices) during this furnace-season, I hope you will begin to take stock of the ways you can move from mourning loss—Av—to starting anew, reminding yourself of your gifts and improving yourself, hishtaprut, so that 5783, the next year, is cause for celebration.
Chodesh Tov, Have a good month of
Rabbi Jonathan Klein