On Saturday night, August 6, 2022, traditional Jewish communities will be observing Tisha B’Av through fasting, prayer and lamentations. This day is a day of communal memorial for the countless acts of violence and tragedy that have befallen our people, and is attributed to be the day that both the first and second Temples of ancient Biblical times were destroyed, along with countless other horrific events.
Because Reform Jews do not (unlike more traditional Jews) yearn for the rebuilding of a third Temple, in Jerusalem, when the messianic era arrives and there will be peace on earth, many Reform Jews have abandoned this practice. Reform Jews traditionally recognize the end of the Biblical era, marked by the destruction of the Temple, to be the start of a more contemporary form of Judaism: one that focuses upon the prayers and sacrifices of the heart over those described in the Biblical era.
Since this time, we have wandered the earth, homeless until the rebuilding of the modern state of Israel, and at the mercy of the governments where we have lived. Country after country has sought to kick the Jews out, and we have been expulsed from England, France, Spain and much of Europe, and to this very day, we continue to face antisemitism, violence and persecution in much of the world. The United States has seen a terrifying increase in antisemitism in the last few years.
In recognition of this fact, I argue that it is imperative that Reform Jews recognize the importance of Tisha B’Av and use this time to reflect upon our collective and intergenerational experience of feeling outcast and unsafe in virtually every country we have ever sought to claim as home… including the modern State of Israel, which has been attacked repeatedly since it was founded.
It is perhaps because of this, that Jews have often sought to advocate for the justice for all oppressed peoples, in solidarity and empathy, as well as recognizing that our well-being is interconnected with the well-being of all creation. The Reform Movement has indeed centered much of our Jewish faith, identity and practice in social justice and the Religious Action Center centers our efforts in Torah and Reform Jewish values. It can be argued that we are at a terrifying crossroads when it comes to social justice and civil rights, as we watch the rise of antisemitism as well as the increase of other forms of prejudice.
Therefore, it is more imperative than ever to take time to root our efforts at social justice and Tikkun Olam (the repair of the world) in Jewish spiritual values, teachings and practices, so that we can remain strong in the face of challenge. This means taking time to grieve, reflect, pray, heal and restore ourselves and our faith that we can make a difference.
I will be speaking about these issues in greater depth as part of my sermon for Shabbat services with the Reform Jewish Community of Atlantic Canada this Friday night, August 5th (5:30 PM Eastern/6:30 PM Atlantic/7PM NFLD). To join virtually, please register for the link at: https://urj.tfaforms.net/820 https://urj.tfaforms.net/820