Today begins the period on the calendar called the three weeks. It’s a time of diminished joy, a time in which you try to deal with the realities of our lives as individuals who are no longer part of a nation that has claimed an indigenous culture, land or language. You are part of the Great World, but not consistently really at home.
Those of you who live in the States are aware of the rise of a new brand of Black anti-Semitism. I saw a clip in which one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement stood in a large public area near a Jewish neighborhood. Pointing at the homes, he asked his adoring audience, “. Who owns these homes?” and the answer was “The Jews” “How did they get them?” “White Privilege”. The fact that the Jewish refugees struggling to keep alive, keep their kids in school, and maybe belong to a synagogue were not a privileged bunch by anyone’s definition when they hit the shores of the US is not relevant when you are selling hatred. Just don’t bother him with facts. Also, if he tells you that as a Jew you don’t belong, you are just a leech trying to suck his blood, don’t ask him where you do belong. The answer won’t be Israel. From his perspective, Israel deserves vindictive financial and physical consequences for being racists who are addicted to committing daily genocide against our Partners for Peace.
How would you like it to be if you had your “druthers”?
Do you dream of peace (which means acceptance and validation, not just non hostility)? I have really terrible news, and some marvelous news as well.
The bad news is that it’s not going to change until we change. The same way the galus was predicted, the redemption is predicted. The good news is that it will definitely change, and so will we. The kind of rave I saw is typical for galus; the 2000-year exile we are so accustomed to. In fact, it feels unpleasant, but normal. The good news is that it is the same Torah that told us that we can open our hearts, redefine ourselves as a G-dly people and affect the entire world.
These 21 days are days of re-evaluation of who we are, much as the 21 days between Rosh Hashanah Hashanah Rabbah. You have to first figure out who you aren’t and who you don’t want to be before you can go onto becoming something more.
What don’t we want?
The bloodbath that spelled out the destruction of the Temple. The subsequent expulsions in countries where we lived lives in which we felt we were completely accepted until it became clear that we were never genuinely accepted. We don’t like being forced to move on from country to country until you can find Jews in every country on the planet. We don’t like learning hard lessons, such as the fact that as long as you define yourself as a citizen of the world rather than as yourself, the world will not accept you, nor has it ever done so for very long.
There has never been world peace (without even considering the way Jews are dealt with) and there is a reason for this. Peace can only occur when there is recognition that each and every piece of the puzzle has a place to be. When you try to homogenize the nations you reap the raw hostility that erupts every year or so because no one wants to be destroyed or repressed or to be left with no identity.
The function of the Jews as a people is to exemplify what the puzzle can look like through the example we set. In the Maharal’s vocabulary this kind of example is called “tzurah” or structure. The tzurah presented in the Torah is big enough for each nation to be itself (which is why in classical Judaism converting other people is not quite the thing to do; If a person was born a non-Jew, he has a piece of the puzzle that is real and important. Why trade it in for another one with a Jewish star on it? If he/she says, I never really belonged. I need the structure the Torah provides, then he or she is now an official member of the clan (after circumcision for men and immersion in the mikveh for both men and women).
The Torah is the structure that Hashem gave us to know how to put the pieces together. “structure”.
You have 21 days to be less distracted and more focused on one thing.
Are the way things being now the way you want them to be?
Do you like hatred?
How’s about violence?
What about change?
During the 820 years the Bais HaMikdash existed, we had structure. Something of the Bais HaMikdash still remains. Get yourself to the the Kotel (okay, go to Aish and see the Kotel through their 24-hour camera). Let it speak to you. Let it inform you that you are part of something bigger than yourself, and that the structure you want to govern your life is the one that was created by the One who simultaneously re-creates the world over and over giving you chance after chance to bring meaning to your life and to enjoy His world. Just get the rules right.
Use the time well!