The view from my veranda

180722 Tisha b’Av


Sunday the 22nd July

Yes I know it isn’t Shabbat but Dubi Gordon quite rightly pointed out that one of our biggest problems right now is not coming from our Southern neighbours, nor our Eastern or Northern neighbours, but rather from within.

It happened in the Church when Protestantism broke away from the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church became too stringent, too controlling and did not allow for flexibility. Erasmus, Luther and Swingley each led a Reform of the church. Erasmus accepted the Catholic dictate while working for change within but others chose to break away from Papal control. Sadly, Judaism is following the same route but being Jews we do so vociferously.

Until now there was a benign dictatorship from the Chief Rabbinate, both Ashkenazi and Sefardi, the rules existed but a general acceptance of those whose belief was somewhat more traditional than rigorous prevailed. It was called tolerance. It showed in the determination that unreligious Jews would never park outside the home of a religious Jew on Shabbat out of respect for the religious Jews beliefs and the religious Jew would simply avert his eyes as the unreligious Jew drove by.

As a child of a small community who also grew her children in a small community in Britain, it was irrelevant how you got to synagogue, your presence and the presence of your children was of prime importance. All the boys, no matter what their background, learned to read from the Torah, to sing their Bar Mitzva parasha and every baby, boy or girl, was blessed in the synagogue by the Rabbi. It was also irrelevant if you were Ashkenazi or Sefardi – you read in whatever accent you wished!

Today everyone wishes to dictate to the others, each level of Judaism believes they got it right. The non-religious eat pork out of spite not belief; they marry in non-religious hippy like ceremonies and reject their own heritage whereas the traditional Jew has to go through an interrogation, sometimes for days, before declared worthy of a religious ceremony!  What happened to compassion and respect, the cornerstones of Judaism, what is the cause of our rebellion?

The culmination, for me, was when the Chief Rabbinate considered annulling the conversions of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren of those who came on Aliyah from the FSU, served loyally in the IDF and were thus converted. The ultra-Orthodox within the Chief Rabbinate saw this as a change in Ben Gurion’s famous “Status Quo” and began the shut down on all leniency. Rabbi Goren foresaw the future trials and tribulations of a divided society and tried to preempt the internecine fighting, but his wise attempts were foiled by a determination to hold on to and wield the enormous power of the upper echelons of religious control.

The pot came to a terrifying boil this week, a truly hubble, bubble, toil and trouble situation when Conservative Rabbi Dubi Hayon was taken in for questioning by the police for performing non-Orthodox weddings which apparently is against the law since Ben Gurion’s days but never invoked. It does to remember that Rabbi Hayon was performing traditional ceremonies, Masorti weddings, not even non-conformist weddings!

When today one looks at the fractured church structure with so many denominations (52 just in Jerusalem) each believing the other is an aberration, we should learn a lesson. We Jews are so few and becoming fewer, we must give our children a chance to learn the beauty of Judaism, the traditions that have held us together through very tough times (and now is not easy), we have to teach our children to love who they are otherwise our grandchildren will not know who they are.

Today is Tisha b’Av the Ninth of the Hebrew month of Av. So very many of the unfathomable disasters that befell our people occurred on this day in our past – so many because of Sinat Chinam – literally free hatred – diametrically opposed to everything we believe in.

The anger is equal on both sides of the religious fence, each deriding the others beliefs or lack of them because of some illogical fear. It is true that one side appears to have control but let’s sit down and talk, debate, argue – not with the like-minded but talk with those we disagree with most. NOBODY NEEDS TO MAKE PEACE WITH HIS FRIENDS.

HaRav Avraham Itzchak Kook was the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the British Mandate, a tolerant and brilliant scholar he wrote –

The pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.

I wish you tolerance, justice and light on this day of deep contemplation – we do not wish for yet another reason to mourn.

With much love from our beloved Jerusalem