Parashat D’varim

Friday, July 16, 2021/7 Av, 5781
Parashat D’varim Deuteronomy 1:1−3:22

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday, over two thousand people gathered in Washington D.C. for a rally against antisemitism entitled “NO FEAR: A Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People.” They were Jews and people from different cultures and traditions who showed up to support the Jewish community. Many people traveled long distances by bus, car, and train to be present.

The Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, Hadassah, Jewish Federations of North America, Jewish Public Affairs, the Union of Reform Judaism and others partnered to create this rally. It was a necessary response to an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents, including violence, threats, vandalization, and disturbing rhetoric. The keynote speaker was Eli Wiesel’s daughter, Elisha Wiesel. Victims of antisemitism joined her, along with leaders from across the political and denominational spectrum addressed the attendees.

As powerful as the speakers’ words may have been, the presence of a wide swath of the Jewish community (and its supporters) was more important still. This rally sent a powerful message: We must remain united as one community in our fight against antisemitism.

This weekend we will commemorate Tisha B’av. Taking place on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, this solemn day marks the anniversary of the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem, which claimed the lives of thousands and sent our people into exile.

In the Talmud, Rabbis explain that internal hatred was a precipitating factor leading to the second temple’s destruction. Leaders allowed the political and personal rifts between them to cause irreparable fractures within the Jewish community. This permitted the Roman army to defeat the Jewish people.

On Tisha B’av we mark the many antisemitic events that we have survived. From the destruction of the first and second temples, to the crusades, expulsions, pogroms, events of the holocaust, and other dark moments in Jewish history. We mourn for the people’s whose lives were taken and for the hardship our people endured. We must also commit ourselves to one another, recognizing that the rifts between us are not nearly as important as standing together against antisemitism.

Tomorrow night, we will come together at 7 pm for a special Havdalah service and a conversation about Tisha B’av. We will explore a few texts that speak to the times when rifts in the Jewish community have had enormous consequences and talk about how we might overcome modern challenges and controversies.

Last weekend 2,000 Jews came together to declare we are in the fight against antisemitism together. This week, we remember Tisha B’av and stand in solidarity with one another.

I hope you have a Shabbat Shalom, and I look forward to seeing you soon!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Cassi Kail