Why we need to take a moment to mourn what was, so that we can build what may be
Now is the time to mourn. There is a time to rebel, a time to conform. A time to fight, a time to heal. A time to argue, a time to compromise. A time to inspire, and a time to talk down. All of those times have been and will be. Now is the time to mourn.
On the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Av, during the nine days our sages dedicated to an intensifying mourning of historical tragedies, we learned just how much pain can be caused by callousness. Just how much zealous indifference can rend the heart of a people. After thousands of years of practice, we were unable to prevent the same passions that felled the Second Temple from undermining our Third.
We learned that millennia of fasting and repentance for Gedalia did not prevent the murder of a sitting prime minister, and that millennia of reading Eicha (the book of Lamentations) did not prevent the taking of a selfie by ministers of the State of Israel while our people sweat and bled and cried. We learned that we are but a ripple in the agitated river of Jewish history. We learned that Zionism did not and will not end the history of our suffering. We learned that a return to our homeland resurfaced age-old lessons we seem to have to contend with time and again until, Gd willing, we finally grow wise.
It is natural to want to bounce back immediately, to yell out to the heavens a cry of rebellion. To promise that we will never stop protesting, to not leave the streets until the law is repealed. It is natural to want to act now, to do something now, anything, now. But now is not the time.
Now is the time to mourn. A time to mourn the death of the dream of an eternally united capital of the Jewish people. How can a capital be united when the people are divided? The death of the dream of the Zionist movement in gathering the exiles to live together as siblings, in peace. How can we gather our kin while our citizens are at each other’s throats? The death of the dream of the State of Israel as the negation of the Diaspora, as the victorious end of exile.
Now is the time to mourn. A time to mourn the surety of American Jewry to its birthright, the freedom to be pro-Israel no matter what the Israeli government does, the permission to cheer from the sidelines while the game is played by others. To explain away that there is nothing you could do. A time to mourn the innocence of bystandership, the permissiveness of acting as a guest who looks the other way in another’s home. A time to mourn the freedom Zionism gave the Diaspora from the burden of Jewish power, from determining Jewish destiny, from true collective responsibility.
And once we have mourned, once we have taken the time to lament, to sit on the floor and weep, to grapple with what we have lost, to replay those moments when it all went wrong, it will be time for us to rise.
At that time, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps next week, it will be time to rise and look out onto a world forever changed by Minister Levin’s speech on January 4, 2023, and the coalition’s decisions thereafter. Onto a world forever changed by the weakness and cowardice of ministers who knew better, of a prime minister who put the needs of his household above the needs of the nation. Onto a yesterday broken and a present needing our attention. Onto a tomorrow demanding a new dream.
We will rise. We will find hope. We will rebel and fight and argue and inspire. We will rebuild. We will find the strength in our history of struggle to overcome the zealotry tearing us apart. We will fight indifference with caring. We will imagine a new framework for our nation, more resilient and flexible which celebrates liberty and disallows coercion. But not today. Not now. First we mourn.