All Alone … Again
Reflections on Tisha B’Av 5766
By: Yakov Horowitz
“Eicha yashva vadad – Alas; she sits in solitude (Eicha 1:1).” The haunting words of Megilas Eicha resonate in our hearts and minds as we sit on the ground commemorating the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash 1,938 years ago.
Sadly, history is repeating itself once again. Our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel are being subjected to horrific destruction and terror with more than 100 rockets on average each day. A sea of enemies sworn to our destruction surrounds us. Today, the leader of Iran once again called for the eradication r’l of Israel, and publicly stated that, “Israel’s destruction is the solution [to the conflict]”. The vile, hate-filled, anti-Semitic rhetoric emanating from many leaders in the Arab world – and most of the ‘Arab Street’ – is at least equivalent to that of the Nazi propaganda machine in the late 1930s. The vast majority of nations would deny us the right to protect our women and children by any means possible.
It is hard to avoid the feeling that Klal Yisroel is isolated and alone … again.
So what does this mean for us? How are we, who live in comfort and security in America, to respond to the unfolding tragedy in Eretz Yisroel? After reading the haftoros of ‘The Three Weeks’ and the poignant words of Megilas Eicha; after reflecting on the kinos we just recited – what are the messages we ought to internalize?
We all know that we ought to increase our tefilos. And we are. We all know that we need to share the burden with our brothers and sister in Eretz Yisroel. And we are; in many ways. This week, I received emails from two parents in Yeshiva Darchei Noam, where I serve as Menahel. They both are members of the local volunteer fire corps and they independently decided to travel to Eretz Yisroel in order to assist the overworked Israeli firefighters battling the many blazes caused by the barrage of rockets.
But how can we honestly relate to the agony of the hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters living in the northern portions of Eretz Yisroel – Tzfas, Haifa, etc. – who have become homeless and unemployed due to the incessant and deadly rocket attacks?
How can we honestly relate to the sheer terror – and bravery – of the parents of Israeli soldiers who are in active combat in Southern Lebanon or Gaza? We, who become anxious when our adult children are driving on the highways in thunderstorms, how can we relate to the sleepless nights that these parents must be undergoing?
Several members of our extended Horowitz family created a family group email list that we use to communicate with each other. We normally use the list to exchange mazel tov notices and occasional requests to daven for a grandchild who is not well. The past few days, we received two emails from our cousins who have children serving in the Israeli army. They speak for themselves. (I included some excerpted lines from their emails at the bottom of this column.)
So; what are we to do?? I guess I would divide the “take-aways” in two groups:
1) Offer material and emotional support to our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel. Especially now, with the advent of the Internet, there is so much you can do. Purchase items online in Israeli stores. Send emails of support to your relatives in Eretz Yisroel. Support the organizations that are helping our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel. Daven for the soldiers who are risking their lives to protect our brothers and sisters. (My chaver Rabbi Pesach Lerner recently created an email partnership to provide the names of soldiers to include in our tefilos. To sign up, go to www.youngisrael.org and click on the large box titled “Israel Crisis” in the upper right-hand corner.)
Adopt a family, community or school. Last September, our yeshiva ‘adopted’ the elementary school of Atzmonah, Gush Katif, as they relocated to the Netivot area. We bought them school supplies, sports equipment, and for Pesach, we partnered with a chesed organization and bought each of the children a brand-new bicycle. Our children and theirs exchanged letters and cards throughout the year. It was so much appreciated by them – and so rewarding for my talmidim.
(Please drop my assistant Esty an email at email@example.com if you would like more information on the logistics of the program. Here is a link link to an article that I wrote on the subject.)
2) On a more personal and spiritual note; I think we all ought to read the stirring and timeless words of our nevi’im in the haftoros of Shabbos Chazon and Tisha B’av – and make a sincere cheshbon hanefesh.
There are two recurring themes in these lines. One relates to the Jews of those times serving idols and forsaking Hashem. That, however, at least on the surface, is not very relevant today. The second theme, on the other hand, is very much germane to our lives. It speaks to the fact that the Jews of those times were concentrating on spiritual trappings (bringing korbanos) and not on the essence of Hashem’s Torah (honesty, integrity, and kindness).
“Why do I need your numerous sacrifices? (Yeshaya 1:11),” asks Hashem. The Navi exclaims that Hashem is “weary of your korbanos (1:14)”, and that He “will not listen to your prayers (1:15).” Why was that so? It was certainly a great mitzvah to purchase and bring karbonos to the Beis Hamikdash. But, as the Navi relates, those mitzvos were mere adornments to the core values of our Torah. And the Navi clearly describes what the Jews needed to do in order to redeem themselves. “Purify yourselves, seek justice, strengthen the victim, and take up the cause of the widow/orphan (1:16-17).
I suggest that we engage in a constructive cheshbon hanefesh regarding the essential elements of the qualities noted by the Navi – honesty, integrity, true ahavas Yisroel, supporting those among us who are weak and unable to conduct their lives with simchas hachayim.
We should be asking ourselves if we are doing all we can to make a true kiddush Hashem in our interactions with non-Jews, non-religious Jews, and frum Yidden who may be of different backgrounds. For these qualities is the essence of what Hashem’s Torah produces.
In these troubling times, when we are surrounded by our enemies, isolated and alone, we ought to be striving to fulfill the timeless charge of Yirmiyahu in the closing words of today’s haftorah, “For only with this may one glorify himself; become wise and [get to] know Me [contemplate how to better emulate the ways of Hashem], for I am Hashem who does kindness, justice and righteousness …” (Yirmiyahu 9:23).
May Hashem dry our tears and comfort us with the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash.
© 2006 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
Excerpted emails from our family email list:
The past 3 weeks have been very difficult ones here in Israel. The fear and terror that residents of the North and the South live with is unfathomable. People’s lives have been disrupted, businesses have come to a standstill and the rhythms that make up the fabric of daily life have ceased to exist for many thousands of Israeli citizens. Living in bomb shelters for 3 weeks is something that we can barely imagine, let alone identify with. Living in a heightened state of anxiety 24/7 sounds like a psychiatric diagnosis, not a fact of life. Yet, Am Yisrael are strong and resilient. Our daughter … just returned from Nahariya where she volunteered to go from bomb shelter to bomb shelter doing anything that needed to be done, i.e. playing with the kids, talking to teenagers, to parents and just letting the residents of that scarred city know that others care. She came back with many stories of courage and bravery in the face of
adversity, along with many invitations to return and visit when things return to normal. We are humbled by her commitment and love for the people of Eretz Yisrael.
Our son Efraim is currently in Lebanon. (Efrayim celebrated his marriage a few short months ago. YH). We last spoke with him on Friday, Shabbat Parshat Devarim. He and his unit entered Lebanon sometime on Shabbat. We do not know his whereabouts or what his mission is… Please keep Efraim Moshe ben Rachel Miriam, along with all the other soldiers, in your tefilot. May they all return home safely to their parents, wives, children and siblings.
With wishes for an easy fast,
And, from another cousin of ours:
I too want to add some words to Mindy’s. Our Noam has been in Lebanon on and off almost from the beginning. There are many heroic acts like in the article that Mindy sent in her letter. Noam … said that he must say birkat hagomel (a blessing recited when one miraculously survived a life threatening situation) many times over. He was with the paratroopers that were … serving in Lebanon.
Please daven … for Noam Simcha ben Shprinsa Aviva and for all of our chayalim … who are doing their best for Am Yisrael.
Have a meaningful fast and hopefully we will see this day of Tisha B’av turned into a day of gladness.