Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thank You, Babylonians. Thank You, Romans. Happy Tisha b’Av

Today is Tisha b’Av, the Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 586 BCE and 70 CE. I should probably be in shul praying for the Temple to be restored speedily in our day. I’m not, of course. I can’t imagine a worse fate for Jews.

Never mind that the Temple Mount is now the site of the Muslim Dome of the Rock, and that knocking down the latter to rebuild the former would bring on World War IV (the Cold War was WWIII). Even if neither Armageddon nor the return of Jesus happened, rebuilding the Temple would force us Jews to once again slaughter animals to placate our God. I don’t look forward to the day when in order to be a good Jew I have travel to Jerusalem three times a year, buy some animals, and have a fella named Levine barbeque them for the Almighty. Sure, we all get to eat the leftovers, but still is this a religion of which I want to be a part? Spoilers: NO!

The destruction of the Temple was the best thing that ever happened to us. When it was destroyed in 586 BCE we responded by inventing Torah, ethical monotheism, and setting the foundations of a culture built on sacred story rather than sacred space. When it was destroyed in 70 CE we completed the reinvention of Judaism as a literary civilization and unleashed a flood of literary creativity that eventually gave us Mishnah, Gemara, Midrash Rabbah, Zohar, and created the unique Jewish mindset of argument, paradox, and doubt that I value so highly. If we had stayed a religious backwater of sacred barbeque we would have converted to Islam in the 7th century, if there would even have been an Islam.

So, while I bemoan the loss of life and sovereignty, I do not bemoan the loss of the Temple. On the contrary, for me Tisha b’Av is a testament to Jewish creativity and our capacity to reinvent ourselves so that we remain a living religion rather than a frozen one.


The Right to Write said...

Like you, I find it hard to mourn to loss of the physical temple, but I still find the fast day useful. In a time when we hide grieving, generally, from the public eye, Tisha b'Av allows us to express our sorrow, over our own broken lives, the broken world, the broken sense of God in our lives. [These ideas come from Rabbi David Aaron's book Inviting God In]. I think Tisha b'Av can still be a relevant holiday, even without the historical meaning.


Rabbi Rami said...

What does "the broken sense of God in our lives" mean, Eric. Nice phrase, but I don't know what Rabbi Aaron means by it.

The Right to Write said...

The sense that we are all a part of God, but we fail to see it. That part of us that wants to be a part of God is broken, and in need of repair. The grief of Tish b'Av can be the spiritual expression of that sense of God in us we long for but is broken, just as the Temple was purported to be the presence, or sense of God in the world, and is destroyed.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

the destruction of the temple was a disaster of mammoth proportions. Proportionately speaking the Romans killed as many Jews as Adolf Hitler. Thousands were sent off into slavery. The others were thrown out of Judea. The wanderings of the Jews thereafter in foreign lands resulted in further persecutions and pogroms.

Only Rami Shapiro can see anything good in this. Perhaps the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan would also see something good in this.

on the other hand from the writings of Rami Shapiro I am unable to discern any good that he can find in Orthodox Jews.

Therefore a big thank you to the Romans is no different then a big thank you to Adolf Hitler.

The Right to Write said...


Comparing Rabbi Shapiro's ideas with those of the Nazis and the Klan is just wrong, and you shouldn't say it.

It is forbidden to shame a Jewish person in public forum.

Rabbi Rami said...

Now at the risk of setting our friend Mordechai off once again, I have often heard it said by Orthodox rabbis that if not for the Holocaust there would be no modern State of Israel. Are these rabbis also saying thanks to Adolf?

And, as often happens, my point was lost: would we have Judaism as we know it (including Orthodox Judaism) if the Temple, Priesthood, and animal sacrifice were still the ways Jews practice their faith? I don't think so.

My point was that out of the horror of these tragedies we Jews responded with our own unique genius creating a literary civilization that continues to thrive thousands of years later.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

"It is forbidden to shame to shame a Jewish person in a public forum" --- so says right to write.

Does that dictum apply to Rami Shapiro when he essentially agrees by his own admission with the Koranic verse that Jews are like donkeys laden with books. He says that that vrrse is not "far off the mark". See his previous posts here.

Since donkeys are stupid and stubborn animals that verse is meant to be extremely demeaning. Frankly it seems hateful to me. There is nothing loving or serving to build bridges.

That Koranic verse deserves critique, derision and opposition. Anybody who PUBLICLY proclaims its wisdom or gives it a nod of approval deserves likewise to be subject to PUBLIC scrutiny.

The pendulum swings both ways. Rami presents himself as a "holy rascal", "smartass" and a practitioner of "standup religion" (his words not mine). Under such cover or guise he spews forth what i see as intolerant, ludicrous, disrespectful and demeaning discourse.

So now let us analyze your initial statement. I did not establish a blog as a PUBLIC forum. I do not mock orthodox Jews. Mocking of orthodox Jews if done by gentiles would be viewed as antisemitism. Should Jews do so unchallenged?

As to sarcasm, challenges, cutting commentary, reparte, does Rami hold exclusive monopoly on these?

And yes anyone who thanks the Romans is just like thanking Hitler. Just saying!!

The Right to Write said...

Ona’as devarim, harming another Jew with words, shaming another Jew in public, is akin to shedding blood. The Talmud says this. If you must criticize the rabbi in this way, in this strong language, send him a personal email.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

Mr. Faux Torah Scholar (The Right to Write):

I agree with the concept of ona'as devorim. You of course failed to mention the exception vis a vis verbally cruel or disrespectful words on the part of an assailant or initiator.

When words such as i have used in response to hurtful words serve to cause the initial assailant to reflect and reform himself then such is an exception to ona'as devorim.

This is so because the end result serves to eliminate or ameliorate the overall hurt and serves a greater good.

But then again for Rami we are akin to donkeys with books so what does it really matter.

Please go back to Torah School and brush up on the exceptions. Take two aspirins and see me in the morning.

Hee haw
Hee haw
Hee haw

The Right to Write said...

Now you shame me in public.


מצווה גוררת מצווה; עברה גוררת עברה

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

You shame yourself.