August 07, 2014On Aug. 5, the fast day of the ninth of the month of Av is celebrated.
This observance commemorates evil things that have happened to the Jewish people.
There is no food consumed, clothing is not washed, bathing is prohibited, leather shoes are not worn, sexual intimacy is forbidden and for three weeks prior weddings and times of rejoicing are prohibited. The book of Lamentations is read to the accompaniment of a spirit of mourning.
According to tradition, a number of tragedies occurred on this date. This was the date of the destructions of both temples, one by the Babylonians and another by the Romans. There are also other tragedies associated with this date. The expulsion of the Jews from England and subsequently from Spain, the beginning of the Holocaust and originally the sin of the "golden calf." These are only a few of the tragedies that have occurred on this date.
The first temple, according to tradition, was destroyed because the Jewish people transgressed the three cardinal sins of idol worship, murder and sexual immorality. However, during the second temple period the Jews did engage in Torah study and fulfillments of the commandments. Then why was it also destroyed? For the sin of groundless hatred, i.e. hatred that is not a response to another's evil actions. Thus we are told this teaches us the sin of hatred is equivalent to transgressions of idol worship, murder and sexual immorality.
These actions of groundless hatred are, in effect, sins against the self. They spring from egocentric self-worship in which one hates others because someone has more, is happier or is different than oneself. Therefore, the Talmud equates it with idol worship, murder and sexual immorality.
The self-centered person cannot have a relationship with other people, or even with G-d, as even his soul is corrupted.
It seems very appropriate to reflect on this now. The world is in turmoil, "baseless" hatred is rampant in the world.
Ethnic violence is happening on virtually every continent. The Middle East is experiencing a series of conflagrations that not only defy understanding but also any sense of human sensitivity and reasonableness. Hundreds of thousands have been murdered, maimed and displaced throughout the entire region.
In an editorial in the New York Times, columnist David Brooks has suggested this is a prolonged realignment of the problems created during colonial times and the redrawing of national and ethnic boundaries. He even calls the Israeli conflict a "proxy" war of the greater Arab powers and interreligious divisions within Islam. A look at the alignment of the protagonists would seem to bear this out. That does not mean people are not suffering and dying on all sides. They are!
It also seems that, indeed, much of the conflict could fall under the heading of "groundless hatred" on the part of the warring parties. There is no group not being persecuted: Jews, Christ-ians, Muslims, Hindus, Ukrainians, Buddhists, refugees from tyranny and war in South and Central America and racial hatreds in the United States, a land that prides itself on religious tolerance, but has a grim history of intolerance.
And so, every day of every week, we pray for peace in our churches, synagogues and mosques. The Hebrew word for "peace" is "shalom," The root of the word, SLM, means "complete."
When things are complete, each person has personal harmony within himself.
Each one has what he needs to restore and maintain "harmony" and thus, peace.
Each is within his own boundaries rather than impinging upon his neighbor. Then there is "peace."
With awareness of the need for many to achieve "shalom," each of use should demand peace in ourselves and our environments. That way we will accomplish the goal of "tikum olam," the repair of the world, leaving it a better place than when we came into it. This is truly the obligation of all men in this world we inhabit together.
Amen and shalom.
Skully is cantor at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue and president of the Grosse Pointe Ministerial Association.