When my daughter was growing up and something “bad” happened, I would respond let us put the “bad thing” in the Tisha B’Av Jar. The Jar seemed the appropriate vessel to contain all the tragedies which occurred during the course of a year. However, I always hoped that the jar would reach capacity and break along with the cessation of Tisha B’Av as a day of mourning.
But alas, here we are again on the cusp of another Tisha B’Av, and again we are confronting the sins of the past. And what is most disappointing is the fact that the same internal and external forces appear to be perpetuating the necessity for Tisha B’Av’s observance.
The sin of the Spies
In this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, Moses recounts and laments the rebellion of the Israelites to take the gift of Eretz Yisrael which Hashem offered, and instead the spies return with a report that maligns the land.
Besides the fact that these princes of the tribes had the audacity to return such an evil statement concerning the land, what to me is of equal significance is the immediate negative impact the report had on the morale of those Israelites who remained in the camp.
The outcry and rebellion against Hashem was contagious and brought swift retribution in creating the first wandering Jews in the desert. And most of all, it showcases how quickly negative words can spread like wildfire to completely incinerate the environment and create a forest fire of insinuations and destruction in their path. The anger that was expressed openly on both sides – by Hashem and by the Israelites demonstrates the rapidity which environments can be influenced especially through negative language.
Anger and its Derivatives on the Home Front
One of the underlying reasons for the jar analogy was the feeling that perhaps it would provide a repository for sealing up negative emotions that may have stayed in the environment after an “injury” and hence have a safe zone in which to cool down.
One unfortunate byproduct of an environment where negativity can incubate is the potential for expressions of anger. And one place where that anger can potentially find its voice is the home. And likewise the ones who are witness to the display of anger are often the children whose parents find themselves in a fishbowl.
In his book “Words that Hurt, Words that Heal,” the author Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, addresses the impact of anger within the home in particular. He states “If a husband or wife, or two siblings or friends, do not restrain their words when they are angry, love is unlikely to survive, no matter how deeply the two people once cared for each other.[i]”
Preventable Casualties – our Children
And when the love loses its vitality and does not survive, it is too often the children who bear the repercussions. As I previously wrote in the blog “Preventative Casualties: Our Precious Children”
There is no doubt that children are being affected by the sudden change in their familial environment as well as by additional influences that accompany the divorce process. It is well recognized that the divorce process affects the mental state of the children, including development of behavioral problems, negative self-concept, social problems and difficulties in relationships with the parents.
These sentiments and others are expressed and documented in Together in Happiness’s White paper entitled:
The Effects of Divorce on Health and Well being
The White Paper is based on The Case for Marriage Education which is downloadable on our website https://together-in-happiness.com/the-case/
There seems to be an epidemic of negative exchanges in our environment today and no sector seems to be immune from its reach – the government exchanges between the coalition and the opposition have become a daily ritual in the war of words. One glimpse at the news being reported can send one into a foxhole to avoid toxicity.
And in order to change the atmosphere – we have to enlist every sector – and to build a vocabulary of real Shalom and that starts in our homes as the fertile territory for breeding a new language. And this leads us to the heads of the households and how they can exemplify this new paradigm shift.
The above mentioned white paper includes a remedy for altering the household verbal dynamics and that is the necessity for education – and in this case the proposed format is one of a focus on the institution of marriage and marriage education.
There is significant positive evidence on the effectiveness of Marriage Education, so the logic of bringing Marriage Education to the forefront of Israeli culture, both as individual units and as citizens is compelling. In addition to reducing divorces and the wear and tear on couples and their children, Marriage Education brings a range of compelling byproducts of increased productivity, happiness and success of our children, as well as for their parents.
As a society we need to focus on the one institution that has proven to be our ticket to winning the favor of Hashem and changing the verbal landscape of our history as a people. And that one institution capable of restoring our people is marriage.
The Torah’s Gift for the Generations
Going back to the Torah portion, the most poignant point of the entire portion to me is the statement that Moses said in his rebuke to the assembled who rebelled due to the sin of the spies report:
“Your little ones that ye said should be prey and your children that had no knowledge of good or evil. They shall go in thither and unto them will I give it (Eretz Yisrael) and they shall possess it.” (Chapter א v.39)
We are the Successors
This means that Hashem had turned the tables on the Israelites and bequeathed Eretz Yisrael to the next generation – the children and that inheritance is ours – the successors to the generation of children.
We have the responsibility to preserve that inheritance with creating the positive foundations of shalom especially in our homes. The path to me is to provide the education to ensure that we have the most harmony and healthy environments for ameliorating the sins of our past – and as much as possible eradicating the anger and environmental influences which tear at us and instead change the paradigm to expressions of LOVE.
As Rabbi Telushkin states in his book “Words that Hurt, Words that Heal,”: “If you become the sort of person who learns to avoid speaking hurtful things about and to others, and accustom yourself to saying the words that buoy the spirits of those around you, you will have gone a long way toward fulfilling the age-old mission G-d addressed to humankind: “To perfect the world under the rule of G-d.[ii]”
We all have the opportunity to implement the new paradigm by demonstrating our commitment to language and expressions of endearment. We especially need to focus on educating ourselves to what measures can we employ to turn Tisha B’Av to a day of Joy starting this year.
And then the Tisha B’Av Jar will permanently shatter and be replaced with the cherubs atop the ark who exhibited love between a couple blessed by Hashem.
[i] Words that Hurt, Words that Heal ( Harper Collins eBooks), p 71
[ii] Words that Hurt, Words that Heal ( Harper Collins eBooks),p166