Ben Shefter
Ben Shefter

What are we crying about?

King Solomon in Ecclesiastes famously said “[There is] a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Chapter 3:4). Today, Tisha Bav, is the Jewish communal time for weeping. We cry for the destruction of the temples and for the many who lost their lives in the crusades, pogroms, and the Holocaust. On this day, Jews throughout the centuries have shed tears and fasted when recalling the calamities that had befallen their people and themselves. These tropes, of remembering those that have died color the way we experience Tisha Bav to this day. We recite dirges, Kinot, written about all the destruction that has occurred to the Jewish people. We watch videos about the Holocaust or other tragedies that have occurred to the Jewish people. But maybe we should be focusing on something else? Maybe, we are crying for the wrong things?

In previous generations, Jews were under constant threat, lacking equality or autonomy. They could not rectify their predicaments and therefore, had to resort to mourning the past. Now, we have a Jewish Sovereign state and relative equality throughout the western world. With this change in dynamic, a new cry must be heard, the cry of “why do we have to fast again this year?” Many are taught as children the importance of learning from ones mistakes. A sad Tisha Bav is G-d’s way of telling us that we have not learned our lesson from last year. The Shulchan Aruch Orech Chayim 559:4 tells us that Tisha Bav can be a happy day, a holiday. What then makes have we not learned that necessities another fast?

We have not learned how to get along with our fellow Jews of all denominations. We have not learned how to provide food and basics of living for all people. We have turned into the people in Lamentations 1:17 (“Zion spreads out her hands; There is none to comfort her”) that ignore the outstretched hand of the poor and downtrodden.

So what can we do? We can join together in interdenominational programs as often as possible, finding what binds us together as opposed to what keeps us apart. We can remove the baseless hatred, sinat chinam, which brought about the destruction of the second temple with baseless love, ahavat chinam, for all those that we see. We can make sure that everyone has what he or she needs to live a productive and meaningful life. By changing what we cry for may we transform the tears of pain into tears of joy.

About the Author
Rabbi Ben Shefter is a graduate of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical school in Riverdale, New York and the Senior Jewish Educator at McMaster and Guelph Universities as part of Hillel Ontario. He grew up in Balitmore, Maryland, and attended the University of Maryland, where he received a BS in Material Science and Engineering while engaging in pluralistic programming through the organization Heart to Heart. Ben strives to make Judaism relevant and fun by finding activities or topics that people are interested in and showing the Jewish content within. He is a Seymour Siegel Scholar and the Educational Director for Heart to Heart.
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