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A Tisha B’Av Lamentation for These Times

As a Jew who lives in America, my heart breaks for my family in Israel.  I speak with my brother and sister who live in a community close to the border with Lebanon and in a moshav near Jerusalem.  The tell me they are worried that Israel is on the brink of civil war.  When I ask my brother what he thinks is the solution, he replies:  “Massive Aliyah from the United States and Europe.”

I need to pause from reading The New York Times. As I scroll through the online comments responding to the essays of Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof and Bret Stephens, my eyes begin to water as the readers offer their own commentary–99.9% of them critical of the Israeli Prime Minister and his supporters.  What hurts even more, is that most of the comments are directed at Israel as a nation, once heralded as David overcoming Goliath.  Now, in these times, Israel is vilified.

My brother and I discussed Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s “Yes” vote.  Gallant explained:

“If I were to vote against the law, I would have to resign. If I had left, it wouldn’t have changed anything. It’s best that I stay at the wheel at such a time.”

My response:  Yes, Minister Gallant, if you would have voted against the bill that became law, you would have had to resign or be fired.  Sadly, you lacked the backbone to follow your conscience and vote “No.”  And, you are not alone.  All the other members of the majority joined you. Another example of preserving one’s position of power over preserving the democracy of one’s country.

I have no magical answers to solving this dilemma.  But, with all the brilliant minds who have turned Israel into one of the most thriving nations in the world, one would think that cooler heads would find a way to reach a compromise.  One would think that those who were elected would put their country first before their own egotistical quest to maintain their positions of power.

On this eve of Tisha B’Av I will pray that the inflammatory rhetoric be quelled.  When I recite the Kinot (dirges), I will lament how today Israel’s fabric is torn apart at the seams.  But I hope that like a frayed quilt, the pieces of fabric can be repaired.  The thread is the healing, and it binds it all together with a simple loop.

I will also pray that the Israeli Prime Minister and his supporters, might reflect not only on the commemoration of Jerusalem’s destruction, but take a few moments to view the touching video above by Misha Zubarev.  Its relevance and poignancy to this moment speak volumes.

The song at the end of the video is from the prayer we recite on Shabbat for the soldiers who defend our Jewish homeland.  The words are:

אַחֵינוּ כָּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, הַנְּתוּנִים בְּצָרָה וּבַשִּׁבְיָה, הָעוֹמְדִים בֵּין בַּיָּם וּבֵין בַּיַּבָּשָׁה, הַמָּקוֹם יְרַחֵם עֲלֵיהֶם, וְיוֹצִיאֵם מִצָּרָה לִרְוָחָה, וּמֵאֲפֵלָה לְאוֹרָה, וּמִשִּׁעְבּוּד לִגְאֻלָּה, הַשְׁתָּא בַּעֲגָלָא וּבִזְמַן קָרִיב

Our brothers of the whole house of Israel, who are in distress and captivity, who wander over sea and over land —may God have mercy on them, and bring them from distress to comfort, from darkness to light, from slavery to redemption, now, swiftly, and soon. 

To me, this prayer should be recited for all the citizens of Israel.  It reminds us that we are all a part of the Jewish People and the word אַחֵינוּ  “Acheinu”–Our Brothers—symbolizes that being a part of the Jewish People should be something that unites all of us.  And like all members of a family, we may never all agree on every issue, but we are still family, although at this time, a fragmented family.

In these turbulent times, when anti-Semitism has risen exponentially throughout the world, I pray that those who hold the mantle of leadership in Israel will remember that the decisions they make must take into account the entire family of the Jewish People.  The future of Israel and the Jewish People depend on it.

About the Author
Reuven Taff has dedicated his career to serving Jewish communities. For 25 years, he was the rabbi and spiritual leader of Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento, California, and now serves as Rabbi Emeritus. As a Hazzan and Jewish Educator, he has held positions as Cantor and Educational Director at Beth El Congregation in Phoenix, Arizona, and Headmaster of Gesher Jewish Day School of Northern Virginia. In addition to his blog on Times of Israel, his opinion pieces have been published in The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento News and Review, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, The Albany Times-Union, The Algemeiner, The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Forward, Jewish Journal and other publications. He can be contacted at rabbitaff@mosaiclaw.org.
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