As I have a deadline to keep, I am writing these words on the sixth day of Tammuz, the fourth day of shiva for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, Zichronam L’vracha (May their Memory be a Blessing). It is nine days before the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz (commemorating the day on which the walls of Jerusalem were breached), which is the beginning of the three weeks before Tisha B’Av (The Fast of the 9th of Av), the anniversary of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple) in Jerusalem.
I am writing the morning after the Ottawa Jewish community gathered together at Congregation Machzikei Hadas to mourn the murders of the three boys. What really characterized the evening was that we experienced unadulterated yachad (togetherness) and achdut (unity). Rashi, the 12th century biblical commentator would probably have commented, “We assembled like one person with one heart,” albeit, a grieving and broken heart. (See Rashi’s commentary to Shmot 19:2.)
As many have said, the noble and dignified behaviour of the three mothers inspired us all to unite and focus our attention on our common Jewish tradition and values. Hopefully, we learned to downplay everything that divides us.
But now I must move forward to July 28, Rosh Chodesh Av.
“When the month of Av begins, joy diminishes,” the Rabbis taught us in Tractate Taanit 26b of the Babylonian Talmud.
Now, and for the next nine days, we behave like mourners who do not shave, do not take part in joyous events and do not eat meat. These are days of reflection, penitence and tikkun. The Rabbis taught that although the Jews in the Second Temple period were occupied with Torah and mitzvot, the Temple was destroyed as a result of sinat chinam, unfounded, baseless hatred and lack of love and unity in the Jewish people. These sins were considered as heinous as idolatry, immorality and bloodshed.
During the nine days, it is our responsibility to make sure that the enmity that was prevalent at the end of the Second Temple period will never show its face again among our people.
We just have to continue feeling and behaving the way we did when we gathered to mourn for the boys, during the 18 days of prayers and searching for them, and during the subsequent days of shiva and shloshim. This period was a tikkun for the sin of sinat chinam.
May our communal tikkun merit us with the joy and benefits of ahavat chinam, the Jewish version of “free love” – loving, embracing and caring for our fellow Jews freely and unreservedly.