Today is Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month called, Av. It is a day of national mourning. It is a fast day.
Right now, it’s about 9:00 pm in Israel, August, 5, 2014. Our Tisha B’Av has just ended. Our fast is over. Americans, on the other hand, can’t eat for another7-10 hours, depending upon where in America they live.
Our Talmud (Taanit, 26b) tells us that five national Jewish tragedies occurred in ancient times on this day. This is the day leaders of the Jewish people returned from a reconnaissance mission just as the Jewish people were about to enter the land of Israel for the first time. It was on the ninth of Av that these men persuaded the Jewish people that the land could not be conquered. As a consequence of this failure to trust G-d’s Promise, no one from that generation (except two men) was allowed to enter the land. G-d decreed that they would die in the desert.
On this day, both of our ancient Temples were destroyed. They were destroyed some 630+ years apart.
On this day, 52 years after the second Temple had been destroyed, the Romans ploughed under the Temple Mount.
On this day, 65 years after the second Temple was destroyed, Roman soldiers massacred all the inhabitants of the Jewish city Beitar.
Since then, the ninth of Av—and the three weeks leading up to it—have been marked with tragedy for the Jewish people. Even today, our current ninth of Av began with a threat: just minutes before a scheduled cease-fire was set to begin between Hamas and Israel, Hamas fired a salvo of rockets into Israel. In our city, two air raid sirens sounded, one after the other. We had to drop everything to go to our bomb shelter.
We’re lucky. We have a bomb shelter. We also have a full sixty seconds to get there, not fifteen seconds.
Later in the day, two friends called to tell us, separately, to alert us: a local police officer had just been stabbed by an Arab.
Nevertheless, as dangerous as all that sounds, we don’t feel the danger. We live on holy land. That’s what we feel: the holiness of the place.
Yesterday, we saw what it meant to live on holy land. There’s a video-tape making the rounds on the internet. It showed a recent interview on Al Jazeera English TV. The Israeli interviewed was Yishai Fleisher, a known Israel advocate who lives in the Jerusalem area. One of his responses explained how some of us feel about Israel. He said (I paraphrase), as every Muslim knows, G-d gave Israel to the Jews. It says so in the Quran. G-d protects the Jewish people. That’s why Gazan rockets haven’t hit anything.
It’s true. G-d protects us. If you watch TV, you have already seen one aspect of that protection—the destruction of Gaza.
That destruction doesn’t just come from the Israeli army. It has another source. That source is today’s morning HafTorah portion from the prophet Yirmiyahu (8:13- 9:23).
G-d punishes measure-for-measure, which means that you can sense the punishment of Gaza in that HafTorah portion. In that reading, the prophet had warned Israel not to sin. Israel didn’t listen. G-d punished Israel. The prophet describes the results of that punishment.
Hamas is being punished in the same way we had been punished. Here is an updated paraphrase of the prophet, as it applies to Gaza:
Hamas curses Israel—and now it is itself cursed. The destruction Hamas has sought for Israel has become Gaza’s destruction.
Hamas wishes to lead Jewish children to slaughter; instead, they make their own children human shields—and lead them to slaughter.
Hamas has led Gaza to hate the G-d of Israel. For that, they sin against G-d. As a result, the land Gazans walk upon trembles from the impact of Israel’s answer to Gazan rocket attacks.
Hamas has taught Gazans to want to devour Israel. Their own homes are devoured instead.
Gaza has become an assembly of treacherous men. They bend their tongues to falsehoods. They proceed from evil to evil. They deceive everyone. They have created a habitat of deceit. They curse Israel and the G-d of Israel.
“Therefore, thus says the Lord of Hosts. I will smelt them…Shall I not punish them for these things?” (The Koren Kinot, The Lookstein Edition, Koren Publications, Jerusalem, 2010, p, 186).
These are the words of the prophet. The other words above come, to a large extent, from the same text. But today, they do not apply to Israel. They apply to Gaza.
Our own past punishments serve a purpose. They warn others. Our G-d punishes measure-for-measure. What you would visit upon us will be visited upon you.
That’s what you see in Gaza on your TV: measure-for-measure. What you see is horrific. But then, that’s what measure-for-measure looks like when you deal with Hamas.