Shabbat Devarim

Begins July 27th at 7.55 pm. Ends July 28th at 8.55pm.
Fast of Av starts 28th 8.16 pm and ends Sunday at 8.17pm.
Chazzan Uriel will lead Maariv, Eicha, and Kinot 
at Park East on Saturday at 9pm

I am often asked why we should still keep the Fast of Av which records the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and then by the Romans in 70CE. Surely now that we have our own land and Jerusalem is ours, why fast and read the Book of Lamentations or recite the prayers that talk about Jerusalem as ‘despised and destroyed’? After all the Prophet Zechariah (9.19) said “God has declared that the fast of the fourth month (Tammuz) and the fast of the fifth month (Av )the Seventh (Ellul) and the tenth month (Tevet) shall be for the House of Judah occasions of rejoicing and gladness, happy occasions of truth and peace.”

It is true we have much to be happy and grateful about. The rabbis of the Talmud gave us Purim and Chanukah to rejoice. They also gave us Tisha B’Av. They argued that we ourselves were responsible for the destruction of our Temples and City. We were corrupt and arrogant and failed to live up to our values of justice, honesty and peace. We fast now to remind us of our political and social failings (whereas Yom Kipur is more about our spiritual souls). Where is ‘truth and peace’?

The sad fact is that when we look around us in Israel and here we do see corruption and failure. Yes, we see success as well and Jerusalem is a thriving modern city and Israel has more to be proud of than most countries on earth. But when we look at our religious leadership and in our own homes and we see how there is a failure to cry out for justice for the oppressed, abused children, or suffering women. When we see how money controls Israeli politics, we see that the very things, social justice for all, the Prophets told us to put right then and we did not, are the very things that undermine our Jewish world today. That is reason enough to mourn and to determine to repair. There is no guarantee we will not lose Jerusalem again.

As for Jerusalem, the world, including the USA, refuses to accept it as our capital. The Olympic Committee refuses to acknowledge the Israeli athletes massacred at Munich. Our enemies surround us full of evil intentions and hatred. As the Book of Lamentations says (1.20) “Outside we are threatened by the sword and inside we face moral death.” Shall we NOT fast?