Shaping the Present in Light of Our Past: Rosh Chodesh Av 5773

A pig being sent over the wall to Jerusalem to be sacrificed in the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple).  An idol being placed in the Beit Hamikdash.  A group of Jews burning the food storage warehouse in order to assert their authority, while also assuring that a number of fellow Jews will starve to death.

These are a handful of the images that come to mind as I enter the period of the three weeks.  They intensify approaching the nine days and eventually Tisha B’Av.  Tisha B’Av is the date where we remember the horrific tragedies of our long history as Jews.  Some of the history was inflicted upon us: numerous cases of being exiled, discrimination, burning of books, murder, etc.  Many atrocities were done to us as a people; however, we have also had a hand in determining our own fate.  

The question that is often asked is why?  Why did these terrible things happen to the Jews?  Rabbis throughout time have asserted that we should be asking a very different question.  We should be asking, “why did we hate our fellow Jews during these times of strife?”  The images mentioned above which depict Jews working against each other rather than in cooperation with each other are simple devastating.   We’ve recorded the history of our ancestors’ failure to unify.  Their failure to combine the divided sects of the second temple era in order to save each other and the Temple.  Their failure to see the big picture and instead be narrow sighted.

Feminist critics would like to know what women were doing while all of this was happening.  While we can glean a fair amount from the kinot that we recite on Tisha B’Av, in modernity, we are far more aware of women’s role in the shaping of today’s society.  One would hope that we would be having a positive influence in light of the  failures of our past.  One would hope that we would be unifying the Jewish people.  One would hope that we would be building bridges and finding ways to relate to one another.

I have been anxious as every Rosh Chodesh has approached during the past number of months.  While I had thought that Sharansky’s plan would help dissipate the animosity and hateful discussion, I am still in a state of shock that it seems to have done quite the opposite.  Instead of accepting a solution and parties from both sides deciding on a long term solution, I have cringed and been deeply troubled by the words thrown, the eggs thrown, the chairs thrown, the bottles thrown.  I may not have been physically present on those days, but my heart and mind could not have been any more present as I read updates on Facebook and Twitter and watched the Kotel cam.  Call me naive, but after Rosh Chodesh Tamuz I thought that we were in the clear.  I thought that, despite a handful of minor incidents, everyone was able to pray at the kotel without much of a hitch.  I could not fathom that forces would be gathered for Rosh Chodesh Av.  I could not comprehend, I still cannot comprehend, how leaders of different Jewish sects would encourage thousands to use tefillah as a weapon, as a barrier.   I can not comprehend that the reason for creating this weapon was to prevent women from praying on Rosh Chodesh.

What makes the situation even more dire is how we, women, are going down in history.  While we should be mitigating and negotiating, we are doing quite the opposite.  While for centuries we have not seen or heard the voices of women in our history books, I can’t say that I look forward to seeing this Rosh Chodesh Av of 5773 being recorded.  I feel as if my hands are tied.  I think it is time for us, men and women, to build the bridges.  It is time to remember this auspicious time, and strongly consider the ramifications of our words and actions.  We cannot allow the situation to get worse.  Let us use these nine days and Tisha b’Av as a wake up call.  It is time to roll up our sleeves and shape our future into one that we can be proud of.  

About the Author
is Director of Education Partnerships for My Jewish Learning. She is the former Director of Development and Communications at ELI Talks and former Executive Director of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. Sharon also has served as the Rosh Moshava (Head of Camp) at Camp Stone, as the first Orthodox woman chaplain at Harvard University, and as a day school educator. She earned her doctorate at New York University. Sharon is an alumna of the Wexner Fellow/Davidson Scholarship graduate program and a Schusterman ROI Member. She studied at The Drisha Institute for Jewish Education and received her B.A. and M.A. from Yeshiva University. Learn more about Sharon here: