Grief & Opportunity

The mourning associated with Tisha B'Av is also a call to action.

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Moving On

But once the day of mourning for what might have been ends, we stop "crying over spilled milk" and go out to fill the bottle. There's still time for you to increase your knowledge and for your children to take advantage of the opportunities you missed.

In the collective arena, most of us find it difficult to identify with the moaning and weeping the Jews of past centuries went through on this holiday. Unlike them, we have Israel and position through our status as citizens of other countries. But if we step back from our seemingly secure position, we realize that we still lack much of what they mourned. We have not eliminated anti-Semitic persecution from the world or established the universal peace that guarantees a life of dignity, self-sufficiency, and mutual respect for all; we have not effected a spiritual reconciliation to accompany our renewed sovereignty over the Land, nor have we been able to achieve unity--regardless of UJA (United Jewish Appeal) slogans ("One People")--which the Temple, as a national symbol and gathering place, promoted.

These deficits provide national goals to ponder during our day of withdrawal and introspection, and they have local communal implications. For instance: The senseless hatred that brought down the Temple is said to have been caused by "the root of all evil." Even the position of spiritual leadership, Kohen Gadol [high priest], went to the highest bidder. In our communities and institutions today, is the situation much different than it was at the end of the Second Temple? Who gets the greatest honors in the synagogue? The top positions on organization boards? Should you be trying to influence organizations in your community to add requirements for scholarship and character so that along with the necessary financial leadership you have the intellectual, spiritual, and moral leadership models and direction critical for long-term success?

Traditional Weakness Associated With Tisha B'Av

Another example: The rabbis also blamed the destruction on lashon harah (evil talk): gossip, rumor, innuendo, even saying nice things that could prompt someone to respond with a negative comment. Trying to eliminate it is undoubtedly even a much more difficult task than trying to change our communal culture. Let's be realistic. How many of us can resist listening to or passing along a juicy tidbit?

The problem, which the rabbis considered one of the most serious offenses because of the destructive power of words, goes deeper. Even if a comment is not made initially with malicious intent, it can wind up causing serious irreparable damage. The remarks of individuals can have national repercussions. For instance, consider how you or the people around you express discontent with Israel. Is it done in constructive ways and without providing ammunition to our enemies? Does the criticism come out of sincere concern for the future of the country and its people, or because as a Jew you feel embarrassed by Israel's actions?

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Lesli Koppelman Ross is a writer and artist whose works have appeared nationally. She has devoted much of her time to the causes of Ethiopian Jewry and Jewish education.