DEVORIM (Deuteronomy, 1:1-3:22)/TISHA B’AV — “Cry, O Zion …”

Tisha B’Av.  The Ninth day of the Month of Av.  A time of sadness. A time of mourning.  A time of tragedy.

Cry, O Zion, and her cities, like a woman in the pains of childbirth, and like a young woman dressed in sackcloth, mourning for her young husband.”  (From the Tisha B’Av prayers.)

Imagine the agonizing physical pain of childbirth; what could be more painful?  Envision the emotional pain of a young widow; what could be more heartrending?

“(Cry, O Zion …) … for the palace that is abandoned because of the sin of the sheep of her flocks, and for the entrance of blasphemers into the chambers of her Sanctuary… 

“… for the exile of the servants of G-d… and for the blood that was spilt like the waters of her canals… 

“… for the desecration of the Temple’s vessels and her incense Altar… 

“… for the Divine Glory that was exiled at the time of the destruction of her Temples 

“… for the poundings and the numerous blows with which her aristocrats were beaten and for the smashing on rocks of her infants and her youths… 

“… for the joy of her enemies when they made sport of her calamities and the tormenting of her free-spirited men, her noble-minded and pure-hearted people… 

“… for the cries of those who vilified her when the numbers of her corpses increased and for the clamor of those who cursed her inside the courtyards of her Tabernacle… 

“… for Your Name which was profaned by the mouth of those who arose to torment her… 

“ … Cry, O Zion, and her cities, like a woman in the pains of childbirth, and like a young woman dressed in sackcloth, mourning for her young husband.”

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Yes, Tisha B’Av is a time to cry.  It is a time to cry over all the tragedies that have befallen our People on that fateful day.

“Cry, O Zion …”  Cry over the Israelites in the desert who rejected the Land of Israel on Tisha B’Av.  Cry over the fact we wandered for forty years until the entire adult generation died without entering the Land.

“Cry, O Zion …”  Cry over the destructions of both Temples on Tisha B’Av.  Cry over the Roman general who committed unspeakable acts of immorality in the holiest place on earth.  Cry over the fact that the Romans plowed over the Temple and built over it a new city that was off-limits to Jews.

“Cry, O Zion …”   Cry over the expulsion of Jews from Spain and England on Tisha B’Av.  Cry over the inability to live in a country due to the terrible crime of being Jewish.

“Cry, O Zion …”  Cry over World War One, that began on Tisha B’Av, laying the groundwork for the German resentment that led to the Holocaust.  Cry for the Jews of Warsaw who were deported to Treblinka beginning on Tisha B’Av.

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Our People have suffered greatly during this time of year.  Consider the following letter that was once sent to a Jewish community:

“…According to the law … and in accordance with decisions of the … government … you are commanded to evacuate your homes and to leave the area … by the end of Tisha b’Av … at 12 midnight. At that time the stage of ‘voluntary evacuation’ will end and all the entrances … will be closed … for from this time, on … remaining … will be illegal.

On the 10th of Av… security forces will arrive to evict you from your homes and will instruct you to leave …

From the 12th of Av… from one minute after midnight, the stage of forced eviction will begin, when security forces will arrive and evict residents who have chosen to stay and who will force the security forces to confront them, with the goal of fulfilling the law… “

How frightening!  Government officials telling Jews that they must leave their homes!  People who worked and built businesses and homes were told by the government that Jews were not welcome in that vicinity.

When did this take place?  Who was this government that warned its Jewish citizens to get out or be thrown out?  Was it the Spanish government of 1492?  Could it be, perhaps, the government of Edward I who expelled the Jews from England in 1290?  Who was it who wanted so desperately to make Jewish neighborhoods Judenrein?

Sadly, the above letter was written by neither a Spaniard nor a Briton.  It isn’t from 1492, or even 1942!  Believe it or not, the above letter was distributed this week by the Israeli Defense Forces.

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The Israeli government has decided that the way to bring peace to the Middle East is by evicting 9,000 honest, hard-working Jews from their homes in 21 communities in Gaza.   This land will then be presented on a silver platter to a nation of terrorists who have sworn to use the formerly Jewish settlements as a base of operations for new terror.

The Talmud tells us that with the advent of the Month of Av (which began last Shabbos) we curtail expressions of joy.  The Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) advises that due to the inauspicious nature of this time of year, one should try to postpone legal conflicts with Gentiles until the end of the month.  At the very least, they should be delayed until after Tisha B’Av.  Now, to our sorrow, we will witness JEW AGAINST JEW in the days immediately following Tisha B’Av.  The army has announced that electricity and water will be shut off beginning on Wednesday.

In this week’s Torah Reading, Moses laments over the disunity of the People of Israel.  Unfortunately, it seems that little has changed.

How tragic!  After all that our People have endured and continue to endure, we are about to be faced with the notion of Jewish soldiers throwing Jews out of their homes.  Imagine how this will look next Monday when the world watches this travesty.  Kicking Jews out to make room for people who want to kill as many Jews as they can and make the whole country Judenrein!  Imagine the celebrations of the Palestinians as they sing for joy at our suffering!

“Cry, O Zion … for the exile of the servants of G-d… and for the blood that was spilt like the waters of her canals… for the poundings and the numerous blows with which her aristocrats were beaten and for the smashing on rocks of her infants and her youths…for the joy of her enemies when they made sport of her calamities … for Your Name which was profaned by the mouth of those who arose to torment her…

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This website is dedicated to sharing thoughts on the weekly Torah Reading.  I normally try to stay out of politics.  There are definitely many sides to this issue.  But how can I remain silent in the face of the suffering of 9000 of my soon-to-be-evicted brethren?

In one respect, it is not my place to comment on the planned disengagement from Gaza.  I am neither a military expert nor political strategist.  Perhaps someone smarter than me will see the wisdom of this retreat.

No, I’m not an expert.  I’m a simple Jew who is tired of seeing his people suffer on Tisha B’Av and year-round at the hands of merciless people who revel in the spilling of Jewish blood.  I am heart-broken that the government of “Zion”, a government that once encouraged the settlers to build their homes and their communities, has turned its back on the very people it is supposed to support and protect.  Yes, cry, O Zion!

What’s that you say?  The majority of Israelis supposedly support the Gaza withdrawal?  That only makes it “legal”; it doesn’t make it right!  Contrary to popular belief, democracy is not a Torah concept.  If the Nation of Israel operated on the basis of majority rule, we would have listened to the 80% of the nation who chose not to follow Moses out of Egypt!

To be sure, we, the Jews of America, love and continue to support our brethren in Israel.  We love and support ALL of our brethren in Israel.  But how can we be silent when some of those brethren are prepared to sacrifice the others on the altar of “peace” with those who seek to destroy us?  Cry, O Zion!

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Is there a silver lining in this dark cloud?  Perhaps.  Maybe our Father in Heaven will look with compassion upon the suffering of our People and finally bring the redemption of Israel and world peace.  But if He does, it will be, in my humble opinion, in spite of this ill-advised disengagement, not because of it.

Let us pray that this year’s Month of Av will be the last time we have to mourn.  Let us look forward to next Tisha B’Av when we can look back and say, as we do on Passover, “Remember how bad it used to be?”

Have a Good Shabbos, and a meaningful fast.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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From the Archives

“Dropping Hints and Lifting Spirits” (2011)

… I have a question.  Why is Moses beating around the bush?!  What’s with the hinting?  Why doesn’t the Torah describe Moses coming out with a shotguns-blazing, Fire-and-Brimstone reprimand?   Why doesn’t he say, “Listen Israel, your behavior has been horrendous!   You complained about the lack of food.  You worshipped Baal Pe’or.  You displayed a lack of faith at the Red Sea.  You listened to the lies of the spies.  You complained about the Manna and supported Korach’s rebellion.  You turned all that gold into a Golden Calf.  YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES!!!!!” …

Read more.

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“Back to Normal?” (2009) 

…The people were concerned.  Sure, they had seen plenty of miracles.  But that was when Moses was around.  What would happen “post-Moses?”  Would the miracles still flow like the waters of the traveling well? Would Heavenly Bread still fall in front of their tents?  Would those pillars of fire and cloud still lead them?

Joshua was a fine student.  He was Moses’ best protégé.  However, to paraphrase  Senator Bentson:  “We served under Moses.  We know Moses.  He is a prophet of G-d.  Joshua, you’re no Moses!”…

Read more.

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“Wearable Clothes for Terrible Times” (2007)

… It must seem strange to envision people celebrating the Sabbath in a less-than-“Sabbatical” mode of dress.  Can you imagine sitting in Shul Friday night next to a carpenter in his overalls and the Roto-Rooter guy in his galoshes?

Actually, most people don’t follow that custom.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that the prevalent custom is that of the city ofVilnawhere they permitted the donning of Shabbos clothes on the Shabbos before Tisha B’Av …

One may be tempted to ask – Isn’t this rather superficial?  What difference does it make?  Why so much emphasis on what you’re wearing?  If you want to dress for Shabbos, dress for Shabbos!  If you want to wear weekday clothes, wear weekday clothes!  What’s the big deal?  And, as long as we’re on the topic, why don’t you rejoin the human race and take a bath?!!…

Read more.

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 “Torah Talk” (2006)

“Hey, how’d he do that?”

“How’d WHO do WHAT?”

“Didn’t you hear that speech?”

“Yes, of course, it was very inspiring.  But he is, after all, a great man.  So why are you surprised?”

Because he doesn’t know how to do that!!!”

It all started almost 120 years before.  The Talmud (Shemos Rabbah,1:26) describes how Baby Moses upset his adopted grandfather…

Read more.

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“Cry, O Zion …” (2005)

… “Cry, O Zion, and her cities, like a woman in the pains of childbirth, and like a young woman dressed in sackcloth, mourning for her young husband.”  (From the Tisha B’Av prayers.)

Imagine the agonizing physical pain of childbirth; what could be more painful?  Envision the emotional pain of a young widow; what could be more heartrending?…

Read more.

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“Selective Memory” (2004)

… Did Moses give a fair description of the events as they actually occurred?  Based on Moses’ version, it seems like the people heard a positive report and rejected it.  In reality, as we see from actually reading about it, there was a spirited debate.  Ten spies said it was bad; two spies said it was good… why did Moses change the story?  Why did he imply that there had been no negative report at all? …

Read more.

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 “How Did This Happen??!! (And How Do We Fix It?)”  (2002)

… In the book by that name, the prophet Jeremiah cries, “Eichah — how can it be that the city once filled with people has become like a widow…?”  (Lamentations, 1:1) Jeremiah stares with disbelief as he sees the once-great city ofJerusalem lying in ruins.  It is almost beyond comprehension that he sees that theTemple has been destroyed and the royal house of  Israel has been led, in disgrace, into captivity.

Jeremiah’s wail continues to this day.  Throughout the world, Jews will sit and read Jeremiah’s words and cry over the pains of our exile…  “Eichah,” how could it be that the Jews of  Warsaw were deported to Treblinka beginning on Tisha B’Av?  “Eichah,” how can it be that a world tolerates the wanton murder of innocent people by a nation that sacrifices its own children for the “Mitzvah” of killing Jews?  “Eichah,” HOW MUCH MORE CAN WE TAKE?!! …

Read more.

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“Tears of ‘OY’ and Tears of Joy” (2001)

… I had a very interesting experience this week … the prohibition of eating meat and drinking wine … doesn’t apply at a Bris… It was a strange inconsistency. On the one hand, we are in mourning for theTemple. On the other hand, we are having a party! Where is our concern for our people? Aren’t we supposed to remember our brethren who were burned at the stake inSpain?! Aren’t we supposed to lament the victims of the Holocaust and the Intifada?! How can we cry to G-d to rescue us from our anguish when we’re eating prime rib and parve ice cream?! …

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain inMonsey,New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on August 10, 2005 at 10:15 am  Leave a Comment  

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