Jerusalem, our city of dreams, our city of hopes, and our city of thousands of years of Jewish history is mourned tonight, the eve of the 9th of Av, according to the Jewish calendar. Tonight is the beginning of Tisha BÁv. It is a night in which we begin a 24 hour fast to mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. Our last foods eaten for the fast are bread and hard boiled eggs dipped in ashes. Why these foods? The egg symbolizes the cycle of life of a soul. The bread represents the bare minimum a soul needs to sustain itself physically. And, the ashes are to remind us all of the smoldering walls of the Holy City, and of the Holy Temple. The charred taste reminds us of how uncomfortable the Diaspora is hard for us all to swallow.
Here we are, remembering the destruction of Jerusalem, and its Holy Temple, during the most recent war on Israel’s soil, Operation Protective Shield. We read Aicha (Lamentations) in synagogue tonight. It is a scripture from the Old Testament which retells the horrors of the destruction of the Temple, its people, and its environs. The tales of woe and sorrow are horrendous. The suffering of families during those times is beyond our comprehension. Famine persisted beyond belief, women and children torn from their families as slaves, and men were bereft of their duties to their families, to their community, and to their Holy Temple.
How did this little nation of Jewish people survive? It is beyond our comprehension. The nation was torn from their place of worship, their main city, and their land. How did this nation maintain its ability to be strong, and carry its laws and customs into the Diaspora?
Our persecutors did not realize that the Jewish people are the people of the Book. Our Torah(theBible) was a portable source that connected the Jewish nation to its roots. As long as the nation read, learned and abided the Torah laws, the Jewish Nation would continue to flourish. For, wherever there is a Torah, there is a spark of Jewish continuity.
Today, a friend sent me a picture of a soldier with a special backpack that helps him carry the Torah into the battlefield. The soldier was carrying a gun, and a Torah at the same time. He was fulfilling the laws of defending his people, and teaching his people at the same time. I was always told that it is not possible for one person to do two things at the same time. This young man proved me wrong.
This soldier gives us all hope for the future. He is the continuation of a long link of Jewish history. He is proving that we can prevail. We can be a Jewish Nation, in the Jewish National Homeland known as the State of Israel. No one can take this away from us! It is ours forever. G-d will prevail. For as it says in Aicha (Lamentations) 5:21 “Bring us back to You, Lord, and we shall return, renew our days as of old.”