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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fasting On Tisha B'Av

Today is the day that we, as Jews, commemorate the destruction of the second Temple by fasting. We are also commemorating all the bad events that occurred to the Jewish people. It's a sad day. Normally I don't write about religious stuff because I don't always feel it's appropriate. But, something happened yesterday that made me want to comment on the day.

My family back in the States belongs to the Young Israel in their city. It models itself as a modern Orthodox Zionist synagogue. On Tisha B'Av, most synagogues have speeches and films that they show to commemorate the day. Next to Yom Kippur, it's the biggest fast day of the year. The only difference is that Tisha B'Av is not a holiday. You can do everyday stuff like drive your car, watch TV, etc. So, the synagogues take this opportunity to use other forms of media to teach lessons on the day. So, yesterday, my mom told me what the Young Israel was doing. The Rabbi was going to give a speech, and then they were going to show the documentary, "The Last Game". "The Last Game" is a documentary about the last basketball game between two high-school rivals from Gush Katif. It's a game that took place only days before the Disengagement took place. Then, after the documentary, a representative of AIPAC was coming to talk about the situation in Gaza today since the Disengagement.

OK, I think the documentary is awesome. It's very moving and important to see. But, on Tisha B'Av? Why? Why show a film that is destined to create nothing Sinat Chinam, baseless hate, on a day when we learned when that's EXACTLY what caused the destruction of the Temple? I objected to the showing of the film today. Apparently, my mother and a lot of other senior members of the synagogue have also objected to the showing of the film on a day like today, but the Rabbi has said that he's going to do what he wants and what he feels appropriate.

You know, and Jameel knows this, I am appalled and disgusted about what has happened to the evacuees since the Disengagement. But, I still think that, given the situation, the Disengagement was the right thing to do. But, that's a matter of policy. It's not a matter of theology. To show the documentary and then make comparisons that the Disengagement is akin to the destruction of the Temple is so disgustingly wrong, it almost makes me sick. How can you say that taking people out of their homes to save their lives is akin to destroying the Beit Hamikdash?!?

Here's an idea. Instead of discussing how the Disengagement was wrong, talk about helping the Gaza refugees! The Disengagement happened. Rehashing hatred toward the state of Israel for carrying it out is only detrimental to hurting the fabric of any unity between the Jewish people, which is precisely what we're supposed to be sewing on Tisha B'Av as we realize what we lost with Sinat Chinam. Helping the Jewish people would be better served if this synagogue would use this day to figure out a way to raise money to help the Gaza refugees. Many of them are still unemployed, and many of them are still living in caravillot and are still waiting for their next community and a permanent home. But, they won't do that.

This brings me to the next point I mentioned, which my mom totally agreed with. The community where I grew up just went through a big scandal with the local Kashrut Council. It was really bad, and it drove a huge wedge within the community, with everyone taking sides, and everyone forming their own opinions on the matter. It was nasty. I'm not going to go through it all, but it was not good. So, I told my mom that instead of talking about the problems and objections with another country's policies on Tisha B'Av, why don't they talk about what just happened within their own community and how they can mend the damage that was done. She totally agreed with me, but then said that the synagogue would never do that. I asked why. She said that if they talked about what happened, then the community would have to take a hard look and itself, and it would have to do some real introspective work where it would have to admit and try to correct its own wrongdoings. Yup, so it's better to discuss and trash on a whole other country, one in which none of them even live and know what's going on everyday, so they have the "objective" disconnect and impersonal Lashon Hara instead of looking at itself on a day when that's EXACTLY what you should be doing.

Bottom line, I think the synagogue should show the film and talk about the Disengagement. But, not on Tisha B'Av. Frankly, they shouldn't be rehashing and recycling the hatred and how Israel did the wrong thing, etc. Instead, they should be more constructive and discuss ways to help those that were evacuated from their homes. Most importantly, it is extremely detrimental to take an event that was decided on democratically to protect part of the population and compare it to the expulsion of the Jews from Israel and the destruction of the Temple by the Romans. They are in no way comparable and to make it correlate is very dangerous.

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