Letter from Rabbi Ross

Rabbi Michael RossFrom the Rabbi’s desk:

We have been rocked by the trauma and tragedy of two more senseless horrific killings this past weekend.

The littany of hatred lengthens: Pittsburgh, Christchurch, Poway, Gilroy, El Paso.

The horrible lineage of white nationalism has left many Jews feeling anxious, confused, and lacking a sense of vision.

In El Paso, the shooter referred to “Replacement Theory” in his social media posts. Many of us first heard of this during the Charlottesville nightmare in 2016, when neo-nazis carried tiki torches and shouted “Jews will not replace us.”

It is in this anxiety and desperation that we enter the holiday of Tisha B’Av this Sunday. My Tisha B’Av article for the Hudson Hub is enclosed below:

As Jews mark the Hebrew month of Av, they also prepare for the saddest, darkest day of the year, the ninth day of Av. In Hebrew, Tisha B’Av is a day of collective Jewish mourning. Historically, it corresponds to the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem — the First Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, and the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. The loss of the Temple also signified the loss of the holy city, and for the Jews it meant that biblical Judaism had ended. Rabbinic Judaism marked a massive reshaping of the sacrificial cult into a prayer-based religion that would be focused on home practices, community celebrations, and ongoing learning.

Tisha B’Av is also a day when other historical tragedies are remembered: the Christian Crusades and the ransacking of Jerusalem in 1096, the expulsion from Catholic Spain in 1492, the massacres in Poland in the 17th century, and the Russian pogroms in the 18th- and 19th- centuries.

How do we acknowledge the grief of loss? What is our personal role and responsibility to this loss?

The rabbis of the Talmud wrote that fostering fear and hatred known as “sinat chinam,” or baseless hatred for each other, was the true cause of the destruction of the Second Temple. Jews were unable to trust other Jews. Their mistrust led to the Roman government’s sacking of Jerusalem.

Many contemporary rabbis also seek a contemporary relationship to this day of mourning. We ask ourselves, “What are the tragic losses we are facing today? Where are we grieving for in our world?”

For some, this can be the threat of climate change and environmental degradation.

For some, it can be the intensification of racism and white nationalism in our country, which is amplified by our leaders’ desire to repeatedly empower white nationalists.

For some, it is the mistreatment of refugees seeking asylum.

What are our specific roles and responsibilities to these issues? How are each one of us culpable in dealing with environmental issues or issues of hatred in our civic life?

What can we do to transform this anger and divisiveness into a message of healing and love?

Spiritually, we are all asked to transform our baseless hatreds of the other into respect, kindness, and ultimately loving the other. On the Jewish calendar, the end of Tisha B’Av, also marks the moment of messianic consciousness, where Jews begin a seven-week journey to renewing our lives and transforming our misdeeds for the coming New Year, Rosh Hashanah, on September 29.

May I bless us all to face the grief of this moment. May we commit to seeking justice in the face of these daunting, critical issues.

May we acknowledge the depth of brokenness in our world. And may we commit ourselves to repairing this world.

May we bring a healthier balance to this living planet.

May we move from fostering hatred to seeking acceptance and hearing the story of the other.

The next step is ours.

Upcoming TBS Gatherings:

Fri. 8/16, 7:30 pm: Shabbat Services (Meditation from 6:45 to 7:15 – please note the new times!)

Save the Date – 8/30 Our Annual Picnic!