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Devarim 5782 ~ August 5, 2022

One night, Napoleon was walking through the darkened streets of Paris. At the end of a small alley, he came upon a small synagogue. Coming from inside the synagogue was the sound of crying, of terrible sadness. He sent his servant inside to find out what the cause was of this outpouring of grief. The servant returned with the president of the synagogue. The president explained that this was the night of Tisha B’Av and that they were mourning the destruction of The Temple. Napoleon said that he was unaware that a tragedy had taken place amongst the Jews and asked when the event had happened. The president replied, "Eighteen hundred years ago, Your Majesty." Napoleon said "Eighteen hundred years! -- and you're still mourning. If you can mourn for eighteen hundred years, I am sure you will get it back!"

Napoleon did get it right; but it took several more centuries until the land of Israel and the State of Israel were, once again, one and the same. And to be more precise, it wasn’t until 1967 that Jerusalem, once again, became whole and reunited as one under a Jewish democracy.

What truly amazes me, though, is that each time I visit Israel, I realize how much it has evolved from a tiny country, home to those who truly were inspired by Theodor Herzl’s vision, to that of a nation of millions. As one looks at each city and town, one can only be inspired that the words of the prophets truly have come into being as we read in our haftorah for this Shabbat: “I will restore your magistrates as of old. And your counselors as of yore. After that you shall be called City of Righteousness, Faithful City.” (Isaiah 1:26).

Just a few days ago, a classmate from all the way back in elementary through high school shared some of her favorite places that she goes to on tiyyulim, day trips. Amongst those trips was one of my favorites, all the way back to the time I was on a teen trip, to Sachne, a simply beautiful water oasis in the Galil, fed by underground springs. She sent pictures from Tzfat, the homeplace of Jewish mysticism, which has become the foundation of Jewish spiritual renaissance. And then, there were pictures of walking on the stones of the Old City of Jerusalem from Temple times. Not the traditional ones that we see as we make our way to the kotel, the Western Wall, but ones that have been unearthed in excavations from 1967.  To think that our ancestors walked those same stones that we, too, can walk along as they made their way to the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple, is part of that restoration described in our haftorah, that precedes Tisha B’Av. But I don’t believe that Isaiah or the author of Eicha, Lamentations, that we will read Saturday night as part of our Tisha B’Av service, had the chazon, the vision of what Israel has become today.  This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Chazon, not only to reprimand but to remind us of the awesome opportunity for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Nation of Israel in the land of our ancestors. Who might have ever thought that along the beaches of Tel Aviv, not to mention other cities throughout Israel, the cost of housing even exceeds the cost of homes here in the US, with magnificent architecture and views.

While we might mourn the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, and many other catastrophic events through Jewish history, on Tisha B’Av, we also must stand in awe, honor and pride in how many multiples of the vision have come into being.

I hope that you will join us on Saturday night, as we join with the other congregations in our area, in reading the most troubling, yet inspiring words of the Book of Lamentations. And even if one does not understand the words, the melody of chanting is haunting and rousing at the same time.

Shabbat shalom and for those who will be fasting on Tisha B’Av, tzom kal.

Rabbi K

Sat, April 1 2023 10 Nisan 5783