Wailing, fasting and the wearing of ashes, alongside socializing, communing and catching up with old friends in a fun outdoor atmosphere. That is the dichotomy of the 9th of Av in modern day Jerusalem. On the one hand a somber mood, but on the other hand, a paradoxical sense of joviality fills the warm summer night.
It makes sense that some level of happiness is in the air, because after all, we are bewailing the destruction of Jerusalem in a big, beautiful and built Jerusalem. This contrast is highlighted in the Jewish liturgy on the 9th of Av when we say the “Nachem” prayer referring to mournful, destroyed and desolate Jerusalem. However, we say that prayer in one of the hundreds of beautiful Synagogues in the city, or at the courtyard of Jerusalem’s city hall, or at the Western Wall with thousands of our fellow Jewish Israeli citizens who have travelled from other thriving Israeli cities on the paved roads of the Jewish state to pray for the future of Jerusalem.
Indeed, a major change has taken place in Jewish life, and while we keep the same rites as we have kept for 2000 years, our reality is vastly different. To understand the change, here is a parable: Two women are in a room and both are single. One’s husband has just died, while the other is engaged to be married – both are indeed single, but they are in totally different states of mind.
So, too, is the Jewish nation: We have mourned for the last two millennia because we were forcibly dispossessed of our land, our capital was sacked, our Temple destroyed and it was as though our husband was murdered. But now with half the Jewish people in the land of Israel and Jerusalem standing in earthly beauty, we are engaged to be married and await the next stage of fulfillment. Our mourning now is the yearning for a final redemption – like a bride waiting for the wedding canopy, we impatiently await the completion of this great process.
Yet, so many Jews deny the obvious reality. Almost like a mantra, they tell you that nothing has changed, that we are still in exile, that there is no difference between living in Israel and living in the Diaspora. Our own people somehow don’t see the transformation that has opened the doors for our nation to return to lost tradition, speak our national language, fight in a Jewish army, and create a culturally Jewish state on our ancestral land. One gets the impression that some prefer not to see it, lest it break their romance with other dreams, namely, the American Dream.
Recently, I caught an article in the Jewish Journal and it was titled: “They just want kosher Dodger Dogs”. The article went on to say that a consortium of six “accomplished professionals” who are also “season ticket holders” are working to remedy the lack of kosher hot dogs at Dodger Stadium in LA. “We are really just a group of people who feel very strongly that the second-largest Jewish community in the country should have the ability to eat a Jewish hot dog at a ballgame…” said a member of the committee, an attorney.
Seriously? Is this what grown men spend their time on? The Jewish people are engaged in the most exciting project in two thousand years – building a Jewish State. We face enormous challenges to build up, educate, and protect our people, and all this is happening while wealthy season-ticket Kosher-eating Jews are fighting for Kosher hot dogs in Dodger stadium? Are we so comfortable with the status quo that Jewish leaders can spend their time on nonsense?
Even closer to their home, in the great state of California there are serious problems with antisemitism at many colleges, high intermarriage rates, and scores of Jews who are losing all connection with Judaism. Some young Jews don’t stand a chance of getting Jewish schooling, while others are afraid to show their Kippah on campus. Yet a group of wealthy Kosher-eating Jews is not ashamed to go public with their efforts to bring fresh Kosher dogs to their box seats?