Mendy Kaminker
Mendy Kaminker

Imagine there are no… birthdays?

Did you know that we have a mourning day because of a… breached wall?

It happened in 69 CE.

After months of siege, the protective walls of Jerusalem were breached and enemy forces invaded the city. To commemorate this event, we mourn and fast every year on the 17th of Tammuz (this year, Sunday June 27th) from dawn to nightfall.

One must wonder why the Jewish tradition attaches so much importance to the breach of the wall. Isn’t the invasion of the city the real tragedy? The breached wall seems to be only a detail. Perhaps an important detail, but a detail nonetheless. Why focus on it?

*

About 50 years ago, an artist called on the world to imagine.

“Imagine there’s no countries / It isn’t hard to do / Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion, too”.

Imagine that. No conflicts. No differences. Sounds like an ideal situation.

But is it, really?

Let me try my own version of “imagine” and see how far we can go with this idea:

Imagine there are no birthdays or anniversaries / It isn’t hard to do / No more hurt feelings over missed gifts / And no Yahrzeits, too [or: and the gift shops will close, too].

Hmmm… it doesn’t sounds like a good idea anymore.

Because differences are actually not bad. In fact, the uniqueness of each individual detail makes our world the beautiful place it is.

While we all have a common purpose – to make the world a better and more G-dlier place – we have different roles, talents and abilities. And those should be celebrated, not squashed.

The wall symbolizes the uniqueness of the Jewish people, and by extension, the multiple uniquenesses we are blessed with. If we do not recognize it, our wall is broken, and that is a great tragedy and a reason for mourning.

As we remember the tragic events of the 17th of Tammuz, let’s pay more attention to our distinctive roles. Our role as a Jewish people, and as individuals.

And you know what?

After the wall comes the doors and windows.

Because if we know and appreciate who we are, we can reach out, connect with those around us and build bridges.

May Moshiach come very soon, and the 17th of Tammuz will no longer be a day of grief, but a day of celebration.

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of Chabad.org.
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