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Hazon - A Shabbat of Vision

07/23/2020 04:36:42 PM


This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Hazon - the Sabbath of visions of doom. Over 2600 years ago, and then again 1950 years ago, the threat of exile and destruction hung over the Jewish people. That threat came to pass on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’av)  which is observed next Wednesday night and Thursday. Indeed, the cycles of despair often returned to their low point at this season of the year, with inquisitions, crusades and progroms so that Tisha B’av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

Our sages struggle with the reasons for these tragedies. Do they reflect God’s neglect? Are they punishments? Are they meant to teach a lesson?

In the Talmud, tractate Yoma 9a and other sources, the sages suggest that these national tragedies are not mere coincidence, but rather reflect a divine response to human misdeeds. According to one view, the first temple was destroyed because of sins of idolatry, adultery and callousness to human life. A society based on injustice, dishonesty and cruelty cannot survive. The second temple was destroyed because of “baseless hatred” - because Jews saw each other as the enemy. A society where people cannot see past partisan divisions, or where people would rather be destroyed than compromise or admit an error also cannot stand. Many other answers are offered as well, but perhaps the broader message is that while every society faces external threats, the greatest risks come from those within - do we act with integrity, with unity, with purpose, and respectful disagreement, or with divisiveness and self-serving attitudes?

Each year, I try to observe Tisha Ba’v by thinking about how can I take the experience of the tragedies of our past to drive myself to be a better person, to be a better Jew, to be more sensitive to the suffering of others, or to act with greater integrity in my own ethical behavior? This year, on Tisha B’av we mourn ancient destructions, but also all that we have lost in these past few months. Perhaps we can learn from our losses and defeats to create new hope. At each of our services, we will add the opportunity to respond spiritually. At our Wednesday evening and Thursday morning services, we will join forces with other congregations to add to the conversations.

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784