By Morah Carolyn Steinman
In the lead up to Tisha B’Av, we need to reflect as a People and as a community what we are mourning with the loss of our Temple and the cause of that loss.
We teach our children that sinat chinam (baseless hatred) was the cause of the destruction of the Temple, symbolic of Jewish unity and connection to G-d, during the time of the Romans in 70CE. What we often fail to teach is the admonition of the Gemara (Oral Law), that if we find ourselves living in a time when the Temple remains in ruins, we are equally responsible for the cause of its destruction. This is our reality; a fragmented world in which we have failed to repair the relationships that led to the loss of the Temple in the first place.
Sinat chinam, baseless hatred is actually not baseless at all. There were many reasons that dislike of other views, ideas, beliefs or human qualities were actually justified during the time of the Temple, and we can argue even today. But what made the hate baseless was that people actively looked for something to hate about the “other”. We as a people turned on one another rather than turning our attention to the enemy without seeking our destruction. So many times in our history we have destroyed ourselves from within.
We are the only religious tradition to record our faults and wrong doings. The Tanach is filled with all the poor decisions we made, the unethical actions and immoral acts we performed. Why does the Tanach do this? Because we are constantly reminded that we are human, even the greatest among us: Moshe, Aaron, the prophets and kings fall prey to human frailty. However, Jews believe that we can always seek forgiveness, repair damaged relationships and heal our world. This is the secret to our survival.
We need to use this time of mourning to self-reflect and seek ways we can communicate better, accept others different from ourselves and strive to strengthen our community of diverse Jewish identity. Together we are stronger, together we can focus on our Jewish survival and that of our children and stand united against those forces growing in the world that seek to assimilate us and question our right to sovereignty in our own land.