The Ninth of Av is nearly upon us — the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, the date when both Temples were destroyed and many other tragedies occurred. The Rabbis teach that while the First Temple was destroyed because of immorality, the Second Temple was destroyed simply because of needless hatred between us. We celebrated division and discord, rather than coming together.
In recent weeks we have seen multiple tragedies: the passing of three of the oldest Torah scholars, who still remembered the level of Torah study common in pre-war European Yeshivos, the stabbing death of an outstanding Sephardi Chacham in Israel, and, most painful of all, the horrific murder of an eight-year-old boy in Brooklyn. The last of these truly brought us together, as people from all walks of Jewish life joined together to search for him.
The Torah reading scheduled to precede the Ninth of Av is always the beginning of Devarim [Deuteronomy]. The first word of the Book of Lamentations, Eichah, appears in Deuteronomy 1:12: “Eichah, How, can I alone carry your toil, your burden and your argument?” The dissent and discord are the same that led to destruction.
As we approach the Ninth of Av, it’s appropriate to consider: what can we do to increase love rather than hate, to come together instead of splitting apart? Why must it take a tragedy to unite us? Let it not just be a time to cry about the past, but to think about a brighter future.