Food For the Soul
Removing “the unknown sin”
With anti-Semitism so rampant these days, it’s easy to forget our own transgressions which serve to help Judaism’s enemies. Among them is the baseless hatred that some Jews harbor towards other Jews. The first Temple was destroyed because of three sins of which the Jews were guilty: idolatry, sexual indiscretions and murder. The second Temple – when Jews were involved in Torah, mitzvot and acts of kindness – was destroyed because we were guilty of “the unknown sin”: harboring baseless hatred towards each other!
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains why hatred and fighting is the “unknown sin”. On average, an idolater, adulterer, or murderer is keenly aware of his sin. People fall victim to temptation, but repentance is eminently achievable because the person himself is conscious of and troubled by the sins which defile his soul. However, the person who is guilty of participating in quarrels and hate mongering rarely believes that he is at fault. In his estimation, the other party rightly deserves all the abuse being heaped on him! Thus, while baseless hatred is perhaps the most overt of sins, so few actually recognize their own guilt.
This is true both in our interpersonal relations as well as our nation’s regrettable tendency to be heavily preoccupied with inter-faction squabbles. Left, Right, and Center. Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform. Chassidic, Zionist and anti-Zionist. And the list goes on…
As we begin the Three Weeks, an annual mourning period that starts on 17 Tammuz (Sunday, June 27) it is easy to continue blaming “them” for factionalism and divisiveness. It is much harder to find the faults within ourselves. The Redemption will come when we finally recognize that – even if in fact “I’m right and he’s wrong” – there is never a valid reason to hate a fellow Jew.
Inspired by an article by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg. For information about The Three Weeks, visit Chabad.org
Ethics of the Fathers, chapter six
This Shabbat afternoon we read from Ethics of the Fathers, chapter six. Here, passage 3 states: “One who learns from his fellow a single chapter, or a single law, or a single verse, or a single word, or even a single letter [in Torah], he must treat him with respect. For so we find with David, king of Israel, who did not learn anything from Achitofel except for two things alone, yet he called him his “master,” his “guide” and his “intimate,” as is stated (Psalms 55:14), “And you are a man of my worth, my guide and intimate friend.” Surely we can infer a fortiori: if David, king of Israel, who learned nothing from Achitofel except for two things alone, nevertheless referred to him as his master, guide and intimate, it certainly goes without saying that one who learns from his fellow a single chapter, a law, a verse, a saying, or even a single letter, is obligated to revere him…”
Mind Over Matter
The pain is real. The fear is not. The pain is real, because we are not in our true place. Nothing is in its true place. It is called exile. Exile of the soul.
The fear is not real—there is nothing to fear. Because no matter where we are, G-d is there with us. For He is everywhere. The only thing we have to fear is that we may no longer feel the pain. That we may imagine that this is our place after all. For it is that pain of knowing we are in the wrong place that lifts us higher, beyond this place. Likkutei Sichot, vol. 30, p.234.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
The Three Weeks’ inner message
There is more to the Three Weeks than fasting and lamentation. Our sages tell us that those who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit seeing it rebuilt with the coming of Moshiach. May that day come soon, and then all the mournful dates on the calendar will be transformed into days of tremendous joy and happiness.
Have I Got A Story
Rebuilding the Temple with love
Talk about Jewish guilt. It is said that if we don’t witness the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in our lifetime, it’s as if we witness its destruction. If that’s not difficult enough, the key to rebuilding is simple to articulate but challenging to do: to love another Jew for no reason whatsoever (ahavat yisrael). This love repairs the “baseless hatred” (sin’at chinam) that caused the Second Temple’s destruction on Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, in 69 CE.
Until the Temple is rebuilt, our nation stops to grieve during the three weeks leading up to the 9th of Av (this year, July 18, 2021). During this period (known as the “Three Weeks”) there are no weddings, no haircuts and no music. During the nine days from the 1st of Av to the 9th of Av, forget about swimming, eating meat (unless it’s Shabbat) and taking a summer vacation. Then there’s Tisha B’Av itself, a 25-hour-long fast that usually feels longer because it’s so ridiculously hot outside. But what I always disliked most about this time period was how clearly I could see what was lacking in me.
When I was growing up, summer meant fun. And that’s what it continued to mean to my extended family, old friends and neighbors who didn’t know about the Three Weeks or the Nine Days or Tisha B’Av. They were happily taking vacations and making barbecues, while I was sitting home in the middle of summer with a bunch of kids and nothing to do.
I have to admit that I didn’t always view my fun-loving fellow Jews so kindly during the Three Weeks. After all, I rationalized, I’d done a lot of heavy lifting to do what G-d wants so that the Temple could be rebuilt. What about all the Jews who couldn’t care less? Which was exactly the worst possible thought I could think about other Jews, especially at this time. I knew that, too, which meant that I didn’t especially like myself at this time of year either.
But even so, I always kept an image of the Temple in my mind, remembering how it inspired me during a Shabbaton my young family attended nearly 30 years earlier. Before that weekend, I knew that the Temple had existed—I had been to Jerusalem and seen the Western Wall—but I assumed it was basically a bigger version of our giant synagogue in Pittsburgh. (What else should I have thought? Everyone referred to our synagogue as “temple.”)
When on this Shabbaton I learned that G-d performed open miracles in the Temple in Jerusalem and that, up until its destruction, people actually knew that G-d existed, I was thrilled to be able to confirm my suspicion about G-d’s existence. The Temple in Jerusalem provided enough evidence for me that the whole G-d and Torah story was true. From there, the idea chain was fairly straightforward: our mitzvahs hasten the coming of Moshiach, who will rebuild the Third Temple, which will exist for eternity. Learning about the Temple put Jewish history, indeed all of creation, into a meaningful context. My existential questions had answers right in my own religious backyard.
By the end of the Shabbaton, my husband and I signed on the spiritual dotted line, sure that we wanted to be part of the rebuilding campaign. But every year the Three Weeks would set me back, and I would fall into the trap of looking at what other Jews weren’t doing for G-d.
Only recently have I seen a change in my relationship with G-d and the world. I am able to see other Jews in a way that I couldn’t before—to accept, care about and love them no matter what they do, even during the Three Weeks. That this attitude helps rebuild the Temple is almost secondary.
It took many years for me to internalize that surrendering my will to G-d’s will would be my ticket to personal happiness, and that what He wants most from me is to love other Jews. What surprises me still is how happy I am when I do it.
By Lieba Rudolph