Secular Jews need to reclaim Tisha B’Av

Why secular Jews need to reclaim Tisha B’Av With our secular values being increasingly under attack in Israel today, our response needs to reclaim, rather than ignore, the saddest day in the Jewish Calendar.

Ittay Flescher, The Times of Israel, 7/20/18

Francesco Hayez Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem
The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, Francesco Hayez, oil on canvas, 1867.

…. Unlike other fast days like Yom Kippur, a day focussed on sin, recounting Temple sacrifices, repentance and requests for divine intervention which a secular Jew may find it hard to connect to, Tisha B’Av has its roots more firmly based on real events of Jewish history. By contrast to the Jewish festivals that are centred around a covenant with God, Tisha Be’Av should be the easiest of days in the calendar for which a non-halachik Jew can find meaning.

The ninth day of Av commemorates the destruction of the two Temples and the Bar Kochba revolt that ultimately led to the end of Jewish self determination in this ancient land for close to 2000 years. It also marks the start of the First Crusade in 1096 where 10,000 Jews were killed in the first month with many Jewish communities being destroyed in France and the Rhineland; the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290 and Spain in 1492; the beginning of mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka in 1942; and the AMIA bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed killed 85 people in 1994.

As a Secular Jew whose identity is tied to the history of my people, enjoying a beer by the beach is not the way I would want to mark the anniversary of these events.

Israelis with humanistic values are deeply offended when a minority of Haredim disregard the ritual of a minute’s silence during the wailing of the siren on Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaShoah. Orthodox Israelis who adhere to Halacha are likewise offended by seeing members of their own faith dining to the sounds of live music on the footpath on the night they mourn the greatest tragedies in Jewish history. Both camps need to be more sensitive to the other. This doesn’t mean that restaurants should close – but perhaps, should not flaunt their ‘openness’ with stickers on their windows.

…We need to reclaim Jewish festivals and texts, rituals and symbols and imbue them with meanings and interpretations that respect human rights and freedoms. Because for us to survive here, we must better understand, celebrate and advocate what we are for as much as what we are against.

Read the complete article here Why secular Jews need to reclaim Tisha B’Av


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