There seems a special urgency this year, recalling the urgency our parents/grandparents must have felt during the Holocaust. Although there have been more evil regimes in the world than I’d care to count, this year and right now, blood-thirsty fanatics are on the verge of being handed a capability to threaten all mankind. As is almost always the case, Israel is the front-line, but the danger extends to rival Moslem nations in the mideast, to Europe and, yes, to the US (The Big Satan) as well.
When Nebuchadnezzer and his hordes sacked Jerusalem, slaughtered our people, exiled our survivors, and destroyed Bayit Rishon, people cried out wanting to know where was God. When the Romans did the same to Bayit Sheni, once again we cried, “Where is God?” Just a mere seventy years after the Holocaust, many of us, once again, wonder, “Where is God?”
God wasn’t sipping a latté, taking a little time off from overseeing the universe, then and He isn’t now. Whatever occurs anywhere in the universe is part of His Hashgacha Pratit, direct, involved engagement with Creation. That is to say that there was and is a reason, and whether or not we’re able to perceive, understand or accept, nothing is random.
That said, it’s not only arrogant, but ignorant for anyone to point a finger and say that this or that is punishment for this act or reward for a different one. While reward/punishment is, indeed, a system that operates within our universe, it’s by far not the sole one. Not only that, its complexity is so far beyond our highest intellectual reach that we only look a fool to pretend we understand it.
There are many reasons why things happen, and usually, according to our tradition, more than one factor comes into play. Occasionally we are granted a glimmer of some of these.
It’s easy for us to mourn events that occurred thousands of years ago. Although we can point to some more recent (Spanish Expulsion, Start of World War I, etc.) that also happened on Tisha B’Av, we’re still sufficiently insulated from them so we can merely commemorate them with a fast and then go on about our businesses.
When we’re all faced with a real, mortal threat, and that in “real time”, there is true and urgent motivation to pull together as a people. A nuclear attack slaughters everyone within range: leftist and rightist, religious and secular, my friends and my enemies, politicians and cancer researchers, infants and the elderly. The potential horror should provoke us to set aside our differences and to work together, to love each other, and to pray one for the other.
We always have the opportunity to come to our senses on our own. When we stubbornly and persistently refuse to, when we insist on preserving sinat chinam, baseless hatred, at all costs, God will lead us back and point our hearts and heads towards the proper direction.
No, of course it’s not as simple as all that. But this is a portion of our current reality we can understand and actually learn from.
This fast is never supposed to be easy but this year it is more bitter than most of us have ever experienced. Terror is never easy and, of course, we all want to avoid it when we can. But when we can’t avoid it, we must learn from it.
Pray for me and I’ll pray for you. And may this be our final year in Exile.
L’Shana HaBa’a B’Yerushalayim. Am Yisrael Chai.