At the conclusion of Shabbat, The Jewish community will commemorate the somber date of Tisha B’av, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av. It is a day set aside each year in the Jewish calendar to mourn a difficult history of pain, destruction, and loss. On Saturday evening, we will gather to sing mournful liturgical poetry, and to hear the chanting of Megillot “Eicha,” liturgical poetry that is attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, and documents the carnage and destruction of the first temple.
Historically, we mourn the temple, but our tradition gives us the space to admit that we live in a broken world. In the past year, a pandemic took the lives of over four million people. We saw racism, antisemitism, police brutality, protests, riots, and so much vitriol run through the very veins of our country. Just like the prophet Jeremiah, we throw our arms in the air to God, and cry out loud, “Eicha”, How... How can things like this happen!
On this Shabbat, before the grief settles in, we are offered a vision of hope and a vision for change.
The Shabbat that precedes Tisha B’av is called “Shabbat Chazon,” the Shabbat of Vision. The Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, a Hassidic master and Jewish leader of the 1700s, explains that on this Shabbat each and every Jew is granted a vision of the future third temple – a time that represents a return to order and peace in our world.
He further illustrates this teaching with a parable:
A father once prepared a beautiful suit of clothes for his son. But the child neglected his father’s gift, and soon the suit was in tatters. The father gave the child a second suit of clothes; this one, too, was ruined by the child’s carelessness. So, the father made a third suit. This time, however, he withholds it from his son. Every once in a while, on special and opportune times, he shows the suit to the child, explaining that when the child learns to appreciate and properly care for the gift, it will be given to him. This induces the child to improve his behavior, until it gradually becomes second nature to him—at which time he will be worthy of his father’s gift.
Despite the pain and the brokenness, on Shabbat Chazon, we are offered a beautiful vision of peace. A glimpse of a society that recognizes each person’s inherent holiness, regardless of differences, and a reality in which each person harnesses their own potential to bring goodness into this planet.
A new vision – because even though our actions can destroy the temple and the world that we live in, we also have the power and responsibility to restore this world to greatness -- brick by brick, and action by action.
As we enter this Shabbat Chazon, I ask you to take a moment, close your eyes, open your heart, and see your vision of a more perfect world…. then ask yourself, what can I do to make sure that vision becomes reality...
Cantor Lisa Peicott