By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
Dear Rabbi Fried,
Please explain the period of the “three weeks” and what we’re supposed to learn from it?
I understand we’re supposed to be mourning over the Temple, but I feel pretty removed from what happened so long ago and need something concrete to work on in the here and now, if you know what I mean.
I appreciate any input you have on the matter.
I understand what you mean, and I’m quite sure many Jews observing this period would share your sentiments. It is quite difficult, to say the least, to connect to a calamity that befell our people some 2,000 years ago. If today’s younger generation is feeling removed from the Holocaust which happened just more than 70 years ago with survivors still among us, how much more so would it be difficult to feel any connection at all to that which transpired so long ago!
In past years I have addressed similar questions with suggestions to read stories of the Holocaust, with the understanding that the destruction of the Temple was the predecessor of all future calamities of Jewish history. That is still valid, but I would like to make another suggestion.
The Talmud says that the second Temple and subsequent exile was in retribution for the sin of “sinas chinam,” or baseless hatred from one Jew to another. The Shechina, or Divine Presence of God, would not rest among the Jews when they are fighting with each other. The numerical value of the last word of the Shema: “Echad” is 13, the number of tribes of the Jews. God reveals himself to us as “Echad” when all 13 tribes are Echad: together, unified as one. When we split apart, the Echad of God, His Presence, eludes us.
As I wrote in the past two columns, an incredible awakening of “Echad” has transpired among the Jewish people in Israel since the kidnapping of the three boys. This unity has continued in many ways throughout the present campaign against the onslaught of missile attacks by the terrorists in Gaza. One need not look as far back as Temple days to connect to the Jewish nation being attacked simply for being Jews in their Homeland! Although it is unfortunate that sometimes it takes us being attacked to pull together, the fact is that the reaction of the Jewish people was and is to find our common denominator and unite as “Echad.”
I would like to share with you the following story:
“I work as a resource room teacher with children who have learning disabilities. A few years ago a young boy began taking lessons in my resource room. I could not figure out what had brought him to seek my help. He clearly had no difficulty with his lessons and did well on all his tests. Yet, time after time he consistently came to my resource room for his lessons. I was determined to find his area of weakness but, as hard as I tried, I could not find any type of learning disability or difficulty. Finally, out of frustration, I took him aside and told him I could not continue giving him lessons. It was a waste of his time and his parent’s hard earned money and he clearly did not need any sort of remedial help. The boy turned to me and said, ‘I will tell you why I am here but I am asking you not to tell anyone else. I have a friend with a learning disability. Our teacher told him that he needed remedial classes in the resource room. He was so embarrassed to be singled out as having to go to your classes. I told him that it was no big deal and that I also take remedial classes. That is why I come to you — so that my friend will not be embarrassed.’
“The boy who came to my class so as not to embarrass his friend was Gilad Shaar, (one of the 3 boys recently martyred). He was 10 years old at the time.
As we enter the difficult period of the three weeks, let us be inspired by Gilad and the other pure neshamas (souls) to look at those around us with an ayin tova (with a “good eye”) — to go out of our comfort zone to help others and to give that little extra of ourselves to bring joy to our fellow Jews.” Barbara Stern Hurwitz M.A., SAS, SDA, Special Education Instruction
Let us learn this invaluable lesson from Gilad ob’m and apply it to our own lives. Let’s come out of ourselves, showing unconditional love for our fellow Jews. This is what we should focus upon during these three weeks. If this would indeed happen, this may very well be our final three week period of mourning; it will become a time of rejoicing as we return to our Homeland with our final redemption!
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.