Thursday, July 30, 2009

"A breath of life for our souls is the air of your land..."

Yom chamishi, 9 Av 5769, Tisha B'Av.

Last night, we heard the recitation of Eicha, as we do every Tisha B'Av night. This time, we listened under a canopy of black sky laced with stars, spread over the Mishnaic ruins of Anim, with around forty other people.  Men, women, young people and children, and even a baby or two, sat quietly for the reading, which was beautifully and hauntingly chanted by one young father. It was very special to see our two teenangels, sitting in the back of this ancient beit knesset, shuckling along as they closely followed the reading.  We felt we made a powerful statement, coming to this place roughly 30 kilometers south of Kiryat Arba, to pray and learn where the composers of our Mishna prayed and learned millennia ago.  Even the sound of the muezzin which punctured the holiness only increased our knowledge that we Jews belong in these places of our forebears, in every place that was given to the Jewish people by Hashem.  Thank you to our friends the Bogners for inviting us along for this remarkable adventure.


Today I watched The Devil's Arithmetic, from the book by Jane Yolen, adapted to the screen by Robert J. Avrech (and for which he won an Emmy).  It is a very moving story of a 16-year-old modern American girl who knows nothing about the meaning of the Pesach seder she is forced to attend with her "boring" elderly relatives.  Sent to open the door for the Prophet Elijah, she steps into the world her great aunt inhabited in 1941 Poland.  As those around her try to explain what she is seeing as she "comes out of her fever," we are reminded about the events that took place in that time.  As she begins to understand what is happening to her and those around her, she tells stories of the future that keep hope alive among her fellow concentration camp prisoners.  This is a difficult and beautifully-made film.  Because it is from a book for young people, it handles the Holocaust more gently than other movies I have seen -- and these days, it is about as draining a rendition as I can handle.  (I'll leave Schindler's List to my tougher brothers and sisters.)

Afterward, I watched a film that still brings buckets of tears out of me.  Avi Abelow and Yaron Shane put together Home Game, about the days leading up to the destruction of Gush Katif -- a very fitting topic for today, as tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of the implementation of that great evil. Focusing around the last championship basketball game to take place there, between teams from Nezer Hazani and Neve Dekalim, the events are seen literally through the camera lenses of the engaging young people who lived there.  This documentary should be required viewing for every member of Knesset, and for every soldier.  I think it would be impossible to believe evil propaganda about "the settlers" after seeing this beautiful and heart-wrenching film.

In these last few hours before the end of this fast, a few thoughts stay in my mind.

When will we Jews stop fearing that our own government will evacuate us from our homes and from our holy places -- for what?  For peace?  No one sees any peace coming from our abandonment of Gush Katif to the Arabs.  To appease world governments, rather than pleasing G-d?  To fulfill some sort of national suicide syndrome?  Perhaps our government should be evaluated for Münchausen syndrome by proxy.  Do they still believe that the world will love them if they sacrifice the lives of their own citizens?

Of course, questions linger about why we lost Gush Katif, when we all knew that a miracle would occur, and that we would not lose it.  I will leave the political questions to someone else, as politics is not my arena.  But the spiritual battle was not completely lost at Gush Katif.  Nor has it been won.  The Ahavat Yisrael group in my yishuv, and the ones throughout Gush Etzion and Yerushalayim and New York and everywhere else in the world, must continue to work to solve the spiritual problem that allowed the gerush to happen.

The Dearly Beloved found a note that I wrote in 2007, tucked into the pages of a Tisha B'Av machzor.

"36.  One of the most amazing and beautiful of the Kinot, pointed out to us (Tisha B'Av 5767) by our dear friend, Mordechai Chazon.  He received nechama from it.  We did, too; but only because, with G-d's help, we will 'cherish [her] stones and favor [her] dust' in only a few weeks."

Here are some of the passages that especially move us from the Kinah, quoted from The Artscroll Mesorah Series: Zechor L'Avraham/The Complete Tisha B'Av Service, Nusach Ashkenaz, copyright 1989:


From west and east, from north and south, carry [in your heart]
the welfare of the distant and the near, from your every side.
And the welfare of the prisoner who is yet full of hope,
Who gives forth his tears like the dew of [Mount] Hermon,
and yearns to let them fall upon your hills.
Weeping over your suffering, I am like a sea monster,
but when I dream of the return of your captivity,
I am a harp for your songs.
My heart [longs] for God's Temple, and before God I long intensely...

I would cause my shattered heart to wander
amidst your shattered ruins.
I would fall on my face upon your soil
and intensely cherish your stones and favor your dust.
Even as I stand by the graves of my Patriarchs,
I behold in sheer wonderment the choicest burial sites in Hebron.
Mount Abarim and Mount Hor, the resting places
of your two great lights [Moses and Aaron],
your beacons and your guides.
A breath of life for [our] souls is the air of your land,
the powder of your dust is finer than flowing myrrh
and your river is like the honeycomb's drippings...

The flocks of your masses who were exiled and scattered
from mountain to hill, they do not forget your sheepfolds...

Your God desired you for his residence,
and fortunate is the man who chooses and draws near
and dwells in your courtyards...

Paintings of the destructions of the two Temples are taken from The Temple Institute, whose efforts include raising public awareness about the Holy Temple, and the central role that it occupies in the spiritual life of mankind.

From the haftarah:
The words of my Lord, Hashem/Elohim, Who gathers in the dispersed of Israel, "I shall gather to him even more than those already gathered." 

@#@#@#@#@#@#@#@#@#@#@#@#   Nachamu, nachamu!

Dear English speakers!

This coming Friday, July 31st, we will be holding an event in Shdema.

Itamar Marcus who was supposed to speak in English,
had to cancel his talk because of a sudden trip abroad;
and therfore the person who will be replacing him will be:

YORAM ETTINGER, former ambassador, expert on the United states and the Middle East.

Yoram Ettinger will speak IN ENGLISH on "The demographic scare: A demographic timebomb or scarecrow?"

Those who heard the lecture in Hebrew can tell you that this is a lecture NOT TO BE MISSED:
extremely informational and very uplifting!!

Tell your friends and come this coming FRIDAY July 31st at 9:30 am to SHDEMA in GUSH ETZION!!

The Committee for a Jewish Shdema

for details Nadia Matar 0505500834 or Yehudit Katzover 0507161818

Eicha:  Lamentations, a tragic and beautiful poem describing the destruction of the Holy Temple, and the exile of the Jewish people from their land
Tisha B'Av:  the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, on which many terrible tragedies befell the Jewish people throughout history
Mishnaic:  from the  first through early third centuries of the Common Era
Beit Knesset:  synagogue
Shuckling:  moving the upper body back and forth in a swaying motion, to "the music" of prayer or learning
Muezzin:  Muslim who chants the Islamic call to prayer, broadcast over loudspeakers five times a day
Ahavat Yisrael group:  gatherings of women devoted to promoting the laws and observance of love of a fellow Jew
Gerush:  "Disengagement" from Gush Katif, August 15, 2005
Nechama:  comfort, solace
Kinah (plural: Kinot or Kinnos):  dirges or elegies recited during the mournful time of Tisha B'Av, to focus our sorrow toward tears that will bring the Ultimate Redemption, may it be speedily in our days!
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