Rabbi Simond's Shabbat Message - August 5, 2022

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Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Pre-State Israel noted that “The purely righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.”

Rabbi Kook’s words ring true this Shabbat as we observe Tisha B’av, the 9th day of the Month of Av, a day of mourning that commemorates the destruction of our Temples in Jerusalem and other catastrophes our people have faced. This day of memory compels us to mourn, fast, and reflect on the collective tragedies of our people.

But the Rabbis of the Talmudic era ask us to look at these tragedies as not only external forces seeking to destroy us (clearly we as a Jewish community have plenty) but to also look internally and examine the actions of the community. In Talmud Yoma 9b:8 the Rabbi asked why the second Temple was destroyed if during that time people were engaged in Torah study, mitzvot, and acts of love and kindness. As is always with Talmud, the Rabbis answer their own question. Underneath the surface of those study sessions, mitzvot observances, and acts of love and kindness, there was a brewing baseless hatred toward one another. The Rabbi goes as far as to suggest that the sin of such baseless hatred was equal to the three severe transgressions: idol worship, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed.

As we enter this commemorative and mournful period of Tish B’av we are compelled to not only look at the historical moments of baseless hatred but look within at our present moment in time and recognize that the sin of such hatred still lurks in our community. From the car in front of us to the person in line, we have all fallen victim to looking at our neighbors not as partners in this global community, but as roadblocks in our quest to complete a task. We have also fallen into the trap of increased tribalism and find ways to hate rather than negotiate. We have pointed our fingers at others and painted a perfect picture of disdain while falling to look within our own hearts and admit that we too harbor hate.

In addition to reading the traditional text of Lamentations on Tisha B’av, I urge us all to read the words of Rav Kook above. As it is taught, the best way to counter baseless hate is with unconditional love. As Rav Kook taught us, the righteous do not complain of the dark but increase the light.” On this Tisha B’av, let us not only mourn the darkness of the past but let us pave a path forward with light. Let us flood this world with unconditional love as our counter-protest to baseless hate of our past.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Joel Simonds