This week's Torah Portion:
: Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22
of the book of
(Deuteronomy) opens with Moses situated with the people of Israel "on the other side of Jordan", waiting to enter the Promised Land. Moses will not be privileged to make this last journey, and so the book of Deuteronomy is his farewell to the people of Israel, reviewing many of their travels in the desert and the
that God has given to them to direct their lives. In this context, Moses begins by reviewing their attempts to scout out the land, and what led to their 40 years of wandering before they were to enter the land.
is always read immediately preceding
, the 9th day of
, when we commemorate the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and by the Romans in 70 CE. On Tisha B'av we will read
, the biblical Book of Lamentations. It is fascinating that the word
appears in both the Torah and
portions. Moses says, "
eichah esah levadi
- how can I (alone) bear your burdens and strife." (Deut 1:12). Isaiah says of Jerusalem, "
Eichah hayitah l'zonah
- how is this city become as a harlot. " (Isaiah 1:21). The echo of the themes of our history, throughout the Torah and
and writings is astounding. As we approach Tisha B'av we are reminded not only of our historic and ancient ties to the land of Israel, but our responsibility to guard it and protect it as we renew our presence in the land of our ancestors in our lifetime.
The Talmud records the following teaching about
"Why was the first Temple destroyed? Because of three things that were prevalent at the time: idolatry, engaging in forbidden relations and bloodshed. But why was the second Temple destroyed, seeing that people were engaged in Torah study, the observance of
and acts of kindness? Because there prevailed among the people
(hatred of others). Thus we are taught that
is equal to all three sins of idolatry, immorality and bloodshed together". (Yoma 9b)
This past week we were reminded that we too are living in a world where there is much hatred and anger towards those not like ourselves. I want to suggest that as we observe
this year, whether or not you mark the day through fasting, attending special religious services or hearing the chanting of
, think of some way to cause less hatred in the world. It seems to me that if, regardless of how else you might (or might not) mark this day, if
could become a day that hatred of others decreases, we will have truly understood and put into action the teachings of the Talmud.
Rabbi Steven Kane