Our Thoughts

3579

BITESIZE TORAH – RABBI DANIEL EPSTEIN

Dear Friends,

Israel and the Diaspora have not been on the same page for some time.
 
Literally!
 
Since Pesach of this year, which concluded on a Friday in Israel – but only on Shabbat in the Diaspora – our Torah Readings have been “out of sync”, “off kilter”, “at odds”.
 
But why has it taken over 3 months for them to realign?
 
Various reasons have been suggested:
 
– global travel is a recent phenomenon, so we would not have noticed in previous generations
– the Parasha of Bemidbar is customarily read just before Shavuot, so we needed to wait
– we are also in a Jewish leap year, so we have ‘extra weeks’ of readings.
 
But maybe there’s a deeper nuance.
 
We re-synchronise just in time for Tisha B’Av, the Fast which commemorates the destruction of the Temples, and we do it for the beginning of the Book of Devarim – Deuteronomy.
 
The most evocative word in Devarim, which is mentioned in the Parasha, repeated in the Haftarah, and again in the Book of Lamentations read on Tisha B’Av, is the word אֵיכָה – “Eicha”; or “how”.
 
It is not just “how”, as in: “how do you do something”, or “how does this work”.
 
It is the soul-searching “how”:
 
How did we get here?
How have we sunk so low?
How have we made so many mistakes?
How have we caused this destruction?
 
It is only when we face these foundational questions, that we begin to search for meaningful answers.
 
And the only meaningful answer is in response to the ultimate question:
 
“How did we drift so far from God to have lost both Temples?”
 
It is only in contemplation of this question that Israel and the Diaspora feel truly united.
 
In our grief. In our loss. In our yearning for the Judaism of old; for a deeper bond and desire to be back in Israel at all costs. That is the moment when we feel the spiritual and prophetic distance between the Land and our seemingly never-ending Diaspora
 
As we mark the beginning of the Nine Days of Av, may we be comforted, literally, among the Mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
 
For it is they who steward our memory and our path back to the Promised Land and may we be reunited, never to be separated again. Amen.
 
Shabbat shalom and Chodesh Tov

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