Faculty      Directors                          

Faculty    Directors    

I write after Shabbat Nahamu, the first Shabbat after Tisha b'Av 5775, that fast day that we as a people have marked commemorating the events of 2,600 years ago, and then again, 1946 years ago, and then again and again over our long history as a people...

Last week this time, we were at the start of a fast that I undertook along with so many in this city of ours, which was described by Isaiah and then by Jeremiah in his turn as a harlot, a city marked by its corruption, symbolizing a wider society in which justice for the weak and oppressed was unavailable.

We read those words sitting on the Tayelet, the promenade from which we on Melton seminars have so often overlooked one of the most impressive sights in the world, a city venerated by half of humankind and the epicenter of our own national and religious life as a people.

Today should have been the Shabbat of consolation, as we returned to the first of seven haftarot of comforting taken from that same Book of Isaiah. Instead, it turned into another Shabbat Hazon, another Shabbat of examining terrible deeds—this time deeds which have taken place in this past week, deeds which have shaken so many of us here and should shake Jews everywhere, as the voices of extremism seem to drown out those of decency and moderation.

During the week, we heard our Supreme Court being condemned as a bastion of post-Zionist leftists because that court demanded that land that had been taken illegally, without title deed, could not be used for erecting buildings built without the legal right for their construction. The voices condeming the highest court in the land did not ask themselves whether the judges did not have to uphold a principle that is crystal-clear in each and every of the Diaspora countries where Meltonians study, and instead, besmirched those judges, denying the possibility that they were acting in the spirit of the law as well as in the name of the law...

We moved on to a parade in the streets of Jerusalem near the Inbal Hotel, away from the city center, marking the rights of the gay community in Israel. Ten years ago at this same place, two people were stabbed, as a fanatic, acting as Pinchas, attacked these marchers. Three weeks ago, the man was released from prison, unrepentant; at this Thursday's parade, he stabbed six people, one of whom, a 16-year-old girl, has since died of her wounds...

As if on cue, the actions of one fanatic provided fuel for another to use the cover of night, and at 2 o' clock on Friday morning, a firebomb was thrown into the home of a Palestinian family, sleeping in their village in the Administered Territories. One child burnt to death; another child and the parents struggling for their lives in intensive care: a dastardly deed carried out by "Jewish terorists", in the words of our president, Reuven Rivlin.

Tonight, therefore, I found myself once again doing what is unnatural and uncomfortable for me: attending yet another gathering, addressed here in Jerusalem by our president. He has stated unequivocally over the past few days that we cannot allow these voices to take over the central road of our public and political discourse... and I say, too, that we who have studied together on Melton seminars, addressing what we have defined as Fateful Decisions and Crossroads in Jewish History, both here and in Diaspora settings, cannot allow these events to go by us, nodding solemnly and clucking our tongues before returning to our normal concerns.

We have to pause and consider: How have we internalized the Tisha b'Av story over the centuries... and what did we define as our meta-agenda in seeking to return to our homeland and build a society where Jews could be free and sovereign?

When our sages determined how to relate to the events of ancient times and the lessons we wanted to learn from them, Isaiah was the most frequently quoted prophet; we in 21st century Israel would do well to heed his warnings. I fear that were he to walk the streets of Jerusalem today, he would not be heard as much as hounded; not praised and heeded as much as condemned...

"Never seek to know for whom the bells toll..." They have been sounded.

I end with a heartfelt comment: I believe that our seminars are run because Israel is essential for Jewish literacy and a familiarity with Israel and its challenges is an essential part of your Jewish learning... we shall have to make a great commitment to ensure that we address the existential matters which are at stake in this beloved country, now crying...

May we have a shavua that will be better. A Shavua tov for healing and comforting—of the weak and undefended, of the other, however each of us may define that term.

Image: Excavated stones from the Wall of the 2nd Temple (Jerusalem), knocked onto the street below by Roman battering rams in on the 9th of Av, 70 C.E. This first century street is located at the base of the Temple Mount where the western and southern walls meet. The property may be accessed via the Davidson Archeological Center in Jerusalem.

Photo by Mark A. Wilson (Department of Geology, The College of Wooster)

Become an Alumni Ambassador

Support quality adult Jewish Education worldwide by becoming a Melton Alumni Ambassador today.
Join Now

Stay Informed

Subscribe to our free Melton Matters newsletter with the latest Melton news.

Follow Us