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V'etchanan(Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)

V'etchanan 5763

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GOOD MORNING!  What is the saddest day of a person's life? Most likely it is the death of one of his closest relatives -father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter or spouse. What if the person felt no sadness over the passing of his closest relatives? Then he should definitely feel sad over his lack of appreciation and his inability to feel this appropriate emotion.

August 6th, Wednesday evening starting at sunset through Thursday evening, is Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av. It is the saddest day in the Jewish year. What should a person do if he has no feeling for Tisha B'av? If a person is Jewish and identifies with being Jewish, then it behooves him to find out why we as a people mourn on this day - what have we lost? What did it mean to us? What should we be doing to regain that which we have lost? At very minimum, we should mourn that we don't feel the pain.

In 1967, Israeli paratroopers captured the Old City and made their way to the Wall. Many of the religious soldiers were overcome with emotion and leaned against the Wall praying and crying. Far back from the Wall stood a non-religious soldier who was also crying. His friends asked him, "Why are you crying? What does the Wall mean to you?" The soldier responded, "I am crying because I don't know why I should be crying."

Tisha B'Av is observed to mourn the loss of the Temples in Jerusalem. What was the great loss from the destruction of the Temples? It is the loss of feeling God's presence. The Temple was a place of prayer, spirituality, holiness, open miracles. It was the focal point for the Jewish people, the focal point of our Jewish identity. Three times a year (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot) every Jew would ascend to the Temple. Its presence pervaded every aspect of Jewish life - planning the year, where one faced while praying, where one would go for justice or to learn Torah, where one would bring certain tithes.

On this same day throughout history many tragedies befell the Jewish people, including:

  1. The incident of the spies slandering the land of Israel with the subsequent decree to wander the desert for 40 years.

  2. The destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem by Nevuchadnetzar, King of Babylon.

  3. The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.

  4. The fall of Betar and the end of the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans 62 years later, 132 CE.

  5. The Jews of England were expelled in 1290.

  6. Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed, and many Jewish communities obliterated.

  7. The Jews of Spain were expelled in 1492.

  8. World War One broke out on Tisha B'Av in 1914 when Russia declared war on Germany. German resentment from the war set the stage for the Holocaust.

  9. On Tisha B'Av, deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto.

Tisha B'Av is a fast day (like Yom Kippur, from sunset one evening until the stars come out the next evening) which culminates a three week mourning period by the Jewish people. One is forbidden to eat or drink, bathe, use moisturizing creams or oils, wear leather shoes or have marital relations. The idea is to minimize pleasure and to let the body feel the distress the soul should feel over these tragedies. Like all fast days, the object is introspection, making a spiritual accounting and correcting our ways - what in Hebrew is called Teshuva, returning, to the path of good and righteousness -to the ways of the Torah.

Teshuva is a four part process:

  1. We must recognize what we have done wrong and regret it.
  2. We must stop doing the transgression and correct whatever damage that we can.
  3. We must accept upon ourselves not to do it again.
  4. We must verbally ask the Almighty to forgive us.

On the night of Tisha B'Av we read in the synagogue Eicha, the book of Lamentations, written by the prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah). We also say Kinot, special poems recounting the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people. With the lights dimmed, we sit on low stools in synagogue as a sign of mourning.

Learning Torah is the heart, soul and lifeblood of the Jewish people. It is the secret of our survival. Learning leads to understanding and understanding leads to doing. One cannot love what he does not know. Learning Torah gives a great joy of understanding life. On Tisha B'Av we are forbidden to learn Torah except those parts dealing with the calamities which the Jewish people have suffered. We must stop, reflect, change ourselves and only then will we be able to make a better world.

The Complete Tisha B'Av Service by Rabbis Avrohom Chaim Feuer and Avie Gold helpful to understand the day and the service. Available at your local Jewish bookstore or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242. If you wish to delve deeper, I recommend going to Aish.com. There are 35 articles to help understand Tisha B'Av: http://www.aish.com/holidays/

The story is told that Napoleon was walking through the streets of Paris one Tisha B'Av. As his entourage passed a synagogue he heard wailing and crying coming from within; he sent an aid to inquire as to what had happened. The aid returned and told Napoleon that the Jews were in mourning over the loss of their Temple. Napoleon was indignant! "How come I wasn't informed? When did this happen? Which Temple?" The aid responded, "They lost their Temple in Jerusalem on this date 1700 years ago." Napoleon stood in silence and then said, "Certainly a people which has mourned the loss of their Temple for so long will survive to see it rebuilt!"


Torah Portion of the Week
V'etchanan

Moshe pleads with God to enter the Holy Land, but is turned down. (Remember, God always answers your prayers - sometimes with a "yes," sometimes with a "no" and sometimes with a "not yet.") Moshe commands the Children of Israel not to add or subtract from the words of the Torah and to keep all of the Commandments. He then reminds them that God has no shape or form and that we should not make or worship idols of any kind.

The cities of Bezer, Ramot and Golan are designated as Cities of Refuge east of the Jordan river. Accidental murderers can escape there to avoid revengeful relatives.

The Ten Commandments are repeated to the whole Jewish people. Moshe then expounds the Shema, affirming the unity of God, Whom all should love and transmit His commandments to the next generation. A man should wear Tefillin upon the arm and head. All Jews should put a Mezuzah (the scroll is the essential part) upon each doorpost of their home (except the bathroom).

Moshe then relays the Almighty's command not to intermarry "for they will lead your children away from Me." (Deut. 7:3-4)

 

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And you shall do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord."

What does this verse come to teach us?

The Ramban, Nachmanides, cites the words of our Sages who explain that this verse exhorts us to go beyond the dictates of the law in our dealings with our fellow man. The Ramban adds that this is a very great principle, since it is impossible for the Torah to actually list every last detail as to how a person should behave with his neighbors and friends. An example: The owner of a plot of land should offer it first for sale to adjacent land owners before offering it for sale to the general public.



CANDLE LIGHTING - August 1:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)

Jerusalem  6:54
Guatemala 6:09  Hong Kong 6:41  Honolulu 6:46
J'Burg 5:26  London 8:17  Los Angeles 7:29
Melbourne 5:17  Miami 7:43  Moscow 8:18
New York 8:04  Singapore  6:58



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

The goal is to die young
at a ripe old age.



In Loving Memory of
Harry Gampel
a beloved friend



Published: August 2, 2003

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