People say I am a Jew,
People say I am a woman,
People say I am an Israeli,
People say I am an Arab,
People say I am a Zionist,
People say I am many things.
But before all — I am a person, I am a human.
I ask to be seen first as a person and then as everything else, I ask to be treated first as a human. Humanity comes before all, people come before all. Judaism is reminding us that the way we treat people, the way we behave to people comes first. People come before a land, people come before a belief and people even come before God.
Our sages teach us that “Proper behavior come before the Torah” (דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה). We can see in different places that our commitment is first to the person and then to the faith. In the book of Ruth, Ruth is telling Naomi “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). When she is converting to be a Jew, first she commits to the people and then she commits to God.
This Sunday was the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av) which is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. It’s a day of mourning, fasting, and reflection. Tisha B’av commemorates the anniversary of a number of disasters in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of both First and Second Temple in Jerusalem. The observance of the day includes a 25-hour fast and reading the Book of Lamentations, which mourns the destruction of Jerusalem. Today, only 6 days after Tisha B’Av we are celebrating the 15th of Av (Tu B’Av) which is the holiday of love. This day is one of the most festive days in the Jewish calendar. The Mishnah tells us that “No days were as festive for Israel as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur”
Often in our life, we focus on the “How Judaism” and not on the “Why Judaism”. I’ve been asking myself this week why are we still fasting? Why are we still mourning? Why not focus on the problems we have now? and why Tisha B’Av and Tu B’Av are only a week apart?
On 9th of Av we mourn the destruction of the Second Temple. It was destroyed because of causeless hatred (שנאת חינם) which paved the way to the exile of the Jewish people and the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jewish people have lost their most holy place and their land simply because of the way they choose to treat each other. The way people treated people costs us everything. On the 15th of Av, only 6 days later we are celebrating the holiday of love. Tu B’Av is a celebration of love, unity, and peace within the people of Israel. It is compared to the festivity and importance of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is a day of atonement and repentance. We ask God for forgiveness. A person will be forgiven for his sins towards God. Sins towards another person should be forgiven by the person first. If he did not give his forgiveness neither will God. I realized that my answer to the “Why” questions was simple- because I am a person before I am everything else.
This week between Tisha B’av and Tu B’av is also a week of reflection. While Tisha B’Av is a time to reflect on the past, Tu B’Av is a time to consider the future. While our past was destroyed because of hatred toward people our future will be built with love. Love, unity, and peace are as important as the Torah.The opposite of causeless and senseless hatred is causeless and senseless love. In Hebrew, we use the word Ch’inam (free). Free hatred is to hate a person for no reason. Free love is to give love to a person without getting anything.
This week reminds us every year what’s important in life, it reminds us that we are all people and people come first. Everyone is a person before he is everything else. We should treat people with understanding, compassion, and love- lots of love. Tu B’Av should be on our minds every day- if we get a chance to give love in this world we should just do it. Let us be guilty of performing acts of kindness, of causeless love even for those whom it is difficult to do so. Let us learn to listen to the person, and listen in order to learn. Let us grow together as people, when in the past we grew apart. If we can do all these things, then we will be on the way to rectifying the mistakes of the past and rebuilding a better future.
In the words of Rabbi Kook, “If we were destroyed and the world was destroyed together with us, through senseless hatred, we will rebuild it, and the entire world will be rebuilt, through senseless love” (Orot HaKodesh, Volume III, page 324).