Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thoughts for Shiva Asar B'Tammuz: Can't We All Just Get Along?

Last week as I entered the Beit Midrash of Torat Hachayyim (the local yeshiva in Yad Binyamin), I noticed that on the computers in the front of the Beit Midrash, a couple of the bachurim were watching a shiur by a rav that I did not recognize (and don't remember his name). When I asked my chavruta about it, he not only told me the rabbi's name (which I forgot), but also that he's a very well-known rabbi in the world of "nistar", and that his message was stern and frightening: bad things are going to happen. Apparently, the death of Rav Mordechai Eliyuha gave us a three month reprieve, but things aren't looking good for us.
"So what are we supposed to do?" I asked.
"Teshuva," my chavruta told me.
That's not enough for me. Just Teshuva? For what? If you just tell people to repent, improve, change, I think that's such an overarching, far-reaching goal, that it's difficult to know where to start, and hard to feel that my general repentance will actually make a difference.
"No," I said. "I need something more specific. Give me an area, a general direction. What should we be doing teshuva for?"
I think I know. At least for the next few weeks.
I was listening to Rabbi Berel Wein speaking on JM in the AM, and after he described his Talmud Yerushalmi project, Nachum Segal asked him what he thought of the whole Emmanuel issue, and whether he felt there was a historical precedent that he could relate. He said that it reminded him of the Jews during the Second Temple era. So much Torah. So much learning. But so much divisiveness and derisiveness for others who are not like we are.
Today is Shiva Asar B'Tammuz. We recited Kinot this morning for the breaching of the walls, leading to the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. But the real walls - the important ones - fell long before, when the Jews lost trust in one-another; when they began to distrust each other more than their enemies. When they forgot what united them, and the fact that all of them were supposedly acting in the service of God.
This, I think, is a proper teshuva for us all that we can begin right now.
This Three Weeks, I think we all, starting with myself, need to work on our unity. I generally try not to bash other groups, but through Tisha B'av I'll try especially hard. I'll make an effort to see the good in other Jews with whom I often do not agree. I'll try to accentuate the positives, making an effort to see the side that I often disregard. I'll try and build, and not tear down.
And I hope you will too.