This past week was Tisha b’Av, the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av, a day of mourning. According to the Talmud, on Tisha b’Av, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed because of Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred between people. Hatred rises when people stop listening to one another. At that time, the society of Judea was deeply divided. The Pharisees would not speak with the Sadducees. The Sadducees who would not speak the Essenes. The Essenes would not speak with the zealots. It was a society full of hatred. No one wanted to hear the needs of another. Hatred blocked the ears and hearts. The society was so divided it could not defend itself against the world’s most powerful army of that time, the Roman Legions. Hatred led to the destruction of society. Tisha b’Av mourns this loss.
The first Chief Rabbi of the modern state of Israel, HaRav Kook taught – the first Jewish commonwealth was built and then destroyed, and then a second Jewish commonwealth was built and then destroyed. Now we are living in the time of the third Jewish commonwealth – the third Jewish state. If we hope this time it might last then we must learn from our past. We need to overcome Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) by practicing Ahavat Hinam, which means “unconditional love.” Kook writes “This love is not dependent on anything. This love exists regardless of any shortcomings in the beloved, or without any conditions that have to be met. Even with all of the deficiencies and imperfections in people, love must be total. There can be great differences in personalities, or disagreements, or debates over the right thing to do, but true Ahavah (love) transcends all of this. This is the Ahavat Hinam (unconditional love) that is needed.”
Tisha b’Av is now behind us. Mourning can teach us lessons. We look forward with hope to the future. Next week we celebrate Tu b’Av the Jewish people’s holiday of love, observed under the full moon of summer,Menachem Av, “the time of comforting” as we begin a seven-week journey to Rosh HaShana.
Shabbat Nachamu tonight is the first of seven shabbatot denechemta (of consolation) that lead us to the new year, like a bride under the chuppah does seven circles around her partner. This is like Joshua who went seven times around Jericho and the walls came down. A bride does seven circles to bring down any walls between herself and her beloved. So too we, the Jewish people, tonight begin the journey of circling through seven weeks to remove any walls that might be between us and the Holy One so that we can greet Rosh Hashana like a beloved under the chuppah on one’s wedding day. During these seven weeks may we practice Ahavat Chinam, unconditional love.