Rabbi Mark H. Kula

Rabbi Mark H. Kula

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These times are indeed trying. I am referring to the saddest days on the Jewish calendar. We are in the midst of a three-week window, July 9-30, corresponding to 17 Tammuz- 9 Av when we remember the destruction of the ancient Jerusalem Temples (596 BCE and 70 CE). 17 Tammuz recalls the breach of Jerusalem’s stone walls and 9 Av commemorates the Temple being burned to the ground.

Tisha B’Av, 9 Av, July 30, 2020, marks this distinctly Jewish remembrance intertwined with recollections of humanity’s tragic traumas across the millennia. Weaving together the parochial and universal makes Tisha B’Av profoundly relevant. The Talmud, a repository of Jewish wisdom, calls Tisha B’Av a day of tears, of fasting, and of remembering. However, the ancient rabbis also called this day a Moed, a holiday. Why? The rabbis of yesteryear were pointing out that 9 Av was not merely a memorial to the destruction of the temple, but, a pivotal moment to celebrate overcoming loss and discerning an improved way to create the future.

Interestingly, despite the day’s many statutes, tradition allowed a divorce ceremony to take place. Even with challenges and loss, the message to couples is clear; we continually believe in the future and that goodness is ahead.

Simply put, tapping into affirmative faith empowers us to do good and when times are trying, we must try more. Overcoming significant challenges requires seeing the light ahead, the future before us and the possibilities of the many tomorrows to come. The great sage, Rambam, Maimonides (1138-1204) emphasized that days of fasting and mourning over past calamities was primarily intended as catalysts for reclamation, healing and restoration of present circumstances.

Focusing on past tragedies and loss is an invitation to increase vigilance and devotion to determine a better future. Rambam elaborated that as one considers destruction of the Jerusalem Temples, one must identify with all of humanity’s struggles. This Jewish commemoration proclaims the broader call; together, overcome loss and trauma and rebuild and restore.

I generalize this particular Jewish day of mourning to our current situation navigating COVID-19, historical reckoning, cultural strife and societal ills. Doing so, raises the call for neighbors, citizens and nations to recognize these trying times as the invitation to try harder. I believe in humanity and divinity and know we will endure and succeed.

Our community is blessed with the (GVIA) Gallatin Valley Inter-Faith Association consisting of people with different faiths, sharing ideas and showing compassionate care for each person. Perhaps, Judaism’s historical description of this day as, Moed, festival, is best embellished by celebrating our diversity and trying our best to make things better for all people especially during our most trying times.

Shalom U’veracha-peace and blessings.