After the fast

A good year and better times on the horizon.

first temple artifacts 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of the Bible Lands Museum)
first temple artifacts 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Bible Lands Museum)
The period that follows Tisha Be’av is an active time for many. Vacations and trips temporarily delayed are now pursued vigorously. Purchases also delayed because of the three weeks, the nine days and Tisha Be’av itself are now completed and life returns to a sense of normalcy. However, there is also the beginning of an upbeat mood, because glimpsed now over our calendar’s horizon is the arrival of the new year and its attendant holidays of solemnity and joy.
I have always felt that the wonder of Tisha Be’av is that the Jewish people somehow continued after its destructive occurrences. The rabbis taught the people to believe that the destruction of the Temples and even the exile was not the final chapter in the story. They created a post-Tisha Be’av world that, while still looking backward and never forgetting what had occurred, basically looked forward to create the conditions of Jewish survival, growth and dynamism.
This remarkable achievement is unique in human history and is testimony to the covenant of eternity that controls our destiny and shapes our lives. The Mishna and the Talmud, the basic books of Judaism and Jewish life, were created after the events of Tisha Be’av. The customs and folkways that have bound Jews together and to their tradition were created and strengthened after the destruction of the Temples. Resilience became the watchword of Jewish life.
In 1263, Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (Ramban) argued against the Church in front of King James of Aragon that Jewish survival over the past millennia was sufficient proof of the uniqueness of the Jewish people and of its covenant with the creator. “One sheep surrounded by 70 wolves!” he shouted to his adversaries who sought to deny the right of Jewish existence and the role of Judaism in world society. Almost 800 years later the same statement can and should be made with even greater emphasis. It is simply Jewish survival and resilience that puts the lie to the delegitimatization campaign that is currently being viciously conducted against us.
ACCORDING TO the script of natural history, we should no longer be here, there should be no great concentrations of Torah students and observant Jews present and there certainly cannot be a thriving Jewish state in its ancient homeland. I think that much of the bitterness and frustration that fuels its hatred, bias and bigotry against Jews and especially the State of Israel is that there apparently is no real “final solution” to the “Jewish problem.”
Some truly believes that if there were no Israel and no strong Jewish community, universal utopia will have arrived. And they therefore are angry with us for not accommodating this wish, which they believe would be so beneficial for the general good of humankind. It is the resilience of the Jew more than anything else that so frustrates our antagonists and has done so for so many centuries.
There are elements within the Jewish people that seemingly are willing to accommodate the wishes of our enemies, all in the name of piein- the-sky humanistic, utopian ideals that never have any true relation to facts on the ground or the reality of life. Their Jewish resilience has deserted them, replaced by a vague hope for universalism and a conviction that the lamb can truly lie down with the lion and not become lamb chops. This misplaced “goodness” and peace mongering at all costs has exacted a heavy toll of lives and stress in the Jewish and general world over the past many decades.
The Jewish people, in the main, has rebuilt itself after the indescribable tragedies and disasters of World War II. A Jewish state exists, the Soviet Union disappeared and more than a million Soviet Jews have reattached themselves in one degree or another to their people and heritage. There simply has never occurred such a string of events to a people after such a tragedy as was the Holocaust.
The world knows about Tisha Be’av but is ill acquainted with after Tisha Be’av. Jews see the good new year and better times on the horizon. It is not the memorials, important as they are, that will sustain our existence. It is the continued physical and spiritual growth of our nation and its institutions of learning, government and compassion that will once again prove our resilience to still be present within us.
The writer is a rabbi, author, essayist and popular historian.