Shabbat Devarim & Shabbat Hazon

Candles July 28th @ 7:55pm
Havdalah July 29th @ 8:49pm

Tisha B’Av
Monday, July 31st
Fast Starts @ 8:12pm, Service @ 8:30pm
Tuesday, August 1st
Fast Ends @ 8:46pm

History is the record of events that took place in the past. This record comes from documents, inscriptions and the works of historians who try to reconstruct events that took place earlier. But we know that two people can see the same event differently. We also know that human memory is not always reliable. What happens when we have different conflicting records? Which one do we accept? Perhaps sometimes both views of the same event might be right. Just as we have different sides to our faces. They are not exactly the same. We think we have one face and it is balanced. Yet one eye might be bigger than the other or shaped differently. One ear lower than the other. When we look at others we combine both views into a single portrait.

History is like that. There are historians, each giving a personal view. We talk about fake news. But the truth is that there is no such thing as objective news. It is all biased to some degree.

When, in the Book of Bamidbar, the episode of the spies was described, it said explicitly that “God said to Moses, send spies.” But here in this week’s reading of Devarim, Moses says “ And you all got together and came to me and said, let us send spies…and I agreed.” Which version was correct? Perhaps both were correct. The Torah often tells narratives in different ways, repeats and adds an extra dimension. There is not only one history.

The Shabbat before Tisha B'Av is always called Shabbat Hazon after the Haftarah in which the prophet Isaiah condemns the corruption of the Israelites. Why was Israel destroyed twice? There are different narratives. Was the catastrophe because we were internally divided and corrupt? Or was it because the rival great powers of the times had their own policies that conflicted with ours? Perhaps it was both. That's history. Two theories and both are right!


Shabbat Balak

Candles - Friday July 7th @ 8:10pm
Havdalah - July 8th @ 9:05pm

Fast of Shivah Assar Be Tammuz
Starts Tuesday morning @ 4:04am
Ends at 8:45pm

Congratulations to the Roshanzamir family
on the wedding of Jessica to Alex.

According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6) Five calamities befell the Jewish people on the Seventeenth of Tammuz:
  • Moses broke the two tablets of stone on Mount Sinai after they made the Golden Calf.
  • The daily tamid sacrifice could not be brought, because the Babylonian siege cut off supplies to the Temple.
  • The walls of Jerusalem were breached (the first step towards the destruction of the Temple).
  • Apostomus burned a Torah scroll.
  • An idol was erected in the Temple.
There is so much here that is both contradictory and historically uncertain. Which Temple was it? When was the tamid sacrifice discontinued? Who was Apostomus? The answer is we do not know for certain!

The Babylonian Talmud places the second and fifth tragedies in the First Temple but dates the breach of Jerusalem to the Second Temple period.

Jerusalem of the First Temple, on the other hand, was breached on the 9th of Tammuz. However, the Jerusalem Talmud states that the breach of Jerusalem in the First Temple occurred on 17th Tammuz.

Apostomus according to Josephus was a Roman soldier in 50 ACE who seized a Torah-scroll and, burned it in public. But the burning of a Torah came later at the time of the Hadrianic persecutions when Chanania ben Teradyon, one of the most distinguished men of the time, was wrapped in a Torah-scroll and burned. According to the Jerusalem Talmud Apostomus burned the Torah at the narrow pass of Lydda. Others suggest that Apostomus was Antiochus Epiphanes and another opinion is that "Apostomus" is the Hebrew transcription for the Latin "Faustinus," and that the name of Julius Severus, who was sent by Hadrian to put down the Bar Cochba rebellion, in which case the setting up of an idol in the sanctuary would have to be taken to refer to the dedication of a temple of Zeus upon the consecrated ground of the Temple.

The fact is we do not know. So why do we still insist on keeping the fast? The answer simply is this. The Seventeenth of Tammuz is the start of a three-week period of sadness and mourning that culminates with Tisha B’Av when both Temples, both Jewish States were destroyed and the people exiled.

In both cases Rabbinic tradition says that we were the cause of our own downfall because we were divided, politically and socially. The rich did not care for the poor. Half the Jews were opposed to the other half. The many of the rabbis were corrupt and we made the wrong decisions because we allowed the mob, popular opinion to influence policies.

That message is so true today. Just as relevant as it ever was. Whether in Israel or the USA. That is why we fast to examine ourselves to see if we can improve, be better and avoid the mistakes and tragedies of the past.