Tuesday, January 31, 2023

One of the fundamental teachings of Judaism is the idea that there is meaning in all historical events. This meaning refers to a divine design, a master plan that encompasses all of history. The Jewish religion is founded on the divine assurance and human belief that the world will be perfected. The Messianic dream is the great moving force of Jewish history and of the Jewish role in the world.

It is during the days commemorating the destruction of the Beis HaMikdosh and of Yerushalayim in the year 70 A.D. that our consciousness of history and its meaning should be raised. In that era, millions of Jews were murdered, taken into slavery, starved to death or exiled across the Roman Empire. The rabbis concluded we were punished because of our sins. We find a fairly long list of causes for the Churbon scattered in different parts of Rabbinic literature. The Talmud (Shabbat 119) lists eight different causes: profanation of the Shabbos, neglect of the reading of the Shma twice daily, neglect of teaching children Torah, arrogance, treating the great and small alike, not guiding each other towards the right way, shaming scholars and lack of trust. In Baba Metziah 30, the Talmud suggests as the cause, the insistence on the letter of the law, the failure to blend legality with righteousness, justice with mercy. In Nedarim 81a, the Talmud sees the neglect of reciting the blessing over the Torah at the start of the day as that which brought the tragedy. And yet, tradition has always favored one reason: Sinas Chinam, causeless hatred, disunity, not seeing that every human is created in the image of God. The sins between man and man listed are not petty moral sins but basic tenets of the Jewish religion, and a failure in our relationships is a failure as Jews.

These three weeks ending on Tisha B’Av are days of reflection on our national and historical tragedies, including the Holocaust, Crusades and pogroms. These days of sorrow remind Jews of the unfinished business: No matter how well off we are individually, the world is still unredeemed. It is a time to think how we can improve ourselves, our communities and the world. We cannot simply pray and wait for the Moshiach. We must bring him by our actions. Can we invite a non-religious person to our Shabbos table? Can we help someone with their resume or help them find a job? Can we perhaps introduce a single man to a woman? Are we able to donate blood for someone in need?

Every expression of traditional Judaism envisages a happy ending, from the sociological message of the prophets to the mystical message of the Kabbalists. The rabbis assert that the anniversary of the day of the destruction of the Temple would be the birth date of the Moshiach. The Moshiach is waiting for us. It is our responsibility to bring him. What did you do today?

Martin Polack is a business analyst and lives in Teaneck.

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