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Rabbi's Weekly Message

Rabbi Wexler - Thursday, July 22

Last Saturday night and Sunday we commemorated Tisha B’Av, the Ninth Day of Av, the saddest day on the Hebrew calendar. Tisha B’Av solemnly marks many of the tragedies and calamities that have befallen the Jewish people. Perhaps most of all, Tisha B’Av has become a day to lament the dangers of sinat hinam, baseless hatred—in-fighting, animosity, and disdain that has existed within the Jewish community in generations past.

However, this Tisha B’Av was different and all the more difficult because on Saturday night we watched with horror as a group of several hundred young, far-right, Orthodox men overran a Tisha B’Av prayer service being held by our Conservative Movement at the pluralistic prayer plaza at the Western Wall. On a night in which we lament that baseless hatred that used to exist in the Jewish community, these men shouted curses at the worshippers, attempted to block the entrance, and built a mehitza (divider) to separate the men and the women.

Rakefet Ginsberg, the Executive Director of the Masorti Movement in Israel, said that the incident drove home the danger of “baseless hatred” between Jews. She then wrote on Facebook on Sunday: “Yesterday evening, it was possible to see, with one’s own eyes, how baseless hatred and fanaticism lead to destruction.”

Eikha? How could this be in the year 5781 (2021)? Eikha? How could such hatred exist within the Jewish community? Eikha? How could this extreme Orthodox group subvert the message and the lessons of Tisha B’Av in such an obvious and hurtful way? Eikha? How can we respond?

I refuse to respond to hate with more hate. Rather, I find both instruction and solace by turning back to our Hebrew calendar. This Saturday will be the 15th of Av, also known as Tu B’Av. Tu B’Av, the “Jewish Valentines Day,” is a day of comfort and healing, a return to love after the grief of Tisha B’Av. If Tisha B’Av breaks us down, communally, perhaps Tu B’Av begins to raise us up. Tu B’Av turns us to love.

How do we respond to hate? With love. How do we respond to what took place at the Kotel last Saturday night? I believe the answer is twofold: First, we double down on our support of Masorti/Conservative Judaism. And second, we turn to love. To quash sinat hinam (baseless hatred), we go all-in on ahavat hinam (baseless love).

And so, may we each take the time to say “I love you” to all of the special people in our lives. May we continue to turn to love in our hearts, in our homes, and in our community. And may we turn to love even when it is difficult, even when others both within our Jewish community and beyond refuse to do so.

Shabbat Shalom.

A Guide for Zooming Shabbat and Holiday Services

“The Shabbat services that we offer over Zoom help keep us spiritually connected while we are physically distant. Though we normally do not use electronic devices on Shabbat, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement considers this to be a hora’at sha’ah, an extraordinary time, which allows us to make an exception to our normal observance. You can read the halakahic ruling (teshuvah) that comprehensively addresses our situation here. Even though we are using technology to gather for services on Shabbat and holidays, we still try to minimize the use of our devices in honor of Shabbat. Click here to see our guide to help with this.

A PDF version of Siddur Lev Shalem is available HERE or can be purchased at the TBS office for $54 each.

Fri, July 23 2021 14 Av 5781