We are now entrenched in The Nine Days, and human nature being what it is, most of us can’t wait for these days of deprivation – no meat or poultry (except for Shabbat); no swimming; no showering (except for Shabbat) and no music, culminating in a 25 hour fast of no food or water – to finally be behind us. Though we are aware of the spiritual necessity to commemorate and immerse ourselves in remembrance of the greatest tragedy to befall our nation, our thoughts somehow wander off the somber path they are supposed to be on, easily distracted by sun-drenched summer days and their offerings of refreshing pool-dipping, the beckoning smell of barbequed meat and upcoming weddings and simchas celebrated with good friends and loving family.
As Tisha B’Av comes closer, we do our best to focus and reflect on the destruction of our Holy Temples and the resultant centuries of exile – an exile that left the Jewish people scattered and very vulnerable to the unpredictable and inconsistent whims of kings, tyrants and religious regimes.
But for many, contemplating our exile from our homeland is more of an intellectual endeavor than an emotional one. We acknowledge the horrific events of long ago, but I sense that we are basically paying a short-term “shiva” call: we are upset, even tearful, but just for a relatively brief moment. The loss of the Bais HaMikdash doesn’t really affect our day-to-day lives – that is true for those of us in North America. For the most part we come and go as we please, without fear, hesitation or restriction and life is physically pleasant and calm.
Though there are “in-your-face” incidents that bring to the fore how potentially dangerous our situation is in our host countries, we tend to let our uneasiness and concern melt off like an ice-cube in soda. It disappears rather quickly.
Once the fast day is over, the tragic realities that the Nine Days represent are relegated to a distant storage bin in our warehouse of memories, to be dusted off in 12 months’ time. That is the way human beings operate. Unpleasant happenings are quickly discarded if they do not affect us directly. People go to hospitals, funerals, shiva houses, and they genuinely feel awful about the specific situation, but the adage “out of sight, out of mind” holds true. We go on with our lives as soon as we walk out the door.
I wonder if this year our mindset will be different. Today, Israel lacks peace and harmony from within, as religious and secular factions bicker and fight over economic and cultural issues, and externally, as fanatical Muslim factions are obsessed with one unifying objective: shedding Jewish blood.
As I write this, hundreds of missiles have been launched from Gaza, and Israeli troops are engaged in a ground invasion to destroy the enemy’s capability to continue doing so. Of course, some things are as predictable as summer heat: the self-righteous indignation from international governments who condemn, censor and criticize Israel for employing self-defense measures. Israel is “damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.” Damned (by the world) if they defend themselves, and damned (doomed) if they don’t.
It would appear that this time the Israeli government is not going to let its citizens be murdered in a futile attempt to get an elusive pat on the back from a biased international media.
Israel is fed up with “Tisha B’Av” happening all too often to Israeli families who are left to mourn and grieve over the unexpected violent death of a loved one. All too often, a smiling, “eyes-brimming-with-life” individual, looks out at us from photos in a newspaper or an online news item. Accompanying the photo is an age and connection – a son, daughter, fiancée, spouse, father, mother or grandparent – and a description of how he/she came to a premature, unwarranted death.