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Tishah B'Av

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Yesterday began the three-week period leading up to Tishah B’Av (August 4-5 this year), the darkest, saddest day on the Jewish calendar. On Tishah B’Av, we fast and we mourn for the destruction of the ancient temples, as well as many other devastations throughout Jewish history.

The three weeks and the nine days right before Tishah B’Av have certain traditional guidelines and practices to prepare. As Jews, wherever we are in the world, we live our daily lives aware of possible threats. We may not need to be reminded of the current situation, but our faith and our tradition’s...

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Last night, for the first time ever, I attended a Tishah B’Av study session – a joint venture between my own Temple Shaaray Tefila and Or Olam - The East 55th Street Synagogue, a neighboring Conservative congregation. Bookended by the singing of Hashiveinu, the hour-long gathering included beautiful chantings from Lamentations in both Hebrew and English, as well as a reading of Flavius Josephus’ eyewitness account of Jerusalem following its destruction by the Romans. The evening was rounded out by small group discussions in which we attempted to unravel the Talmudic tale of Kamza and Bar...

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My son’s birthday is in July. Last year, we sent out invitations to his bunkmates for a typical kindergartener’s birthday bash - pizza and ice cream cake at a moon-bounce place. One of the responses I got was from a parent who wanted to make sure I knew that we had scheduled Elishai’s birthday on Tishah B’Av, the 9th of Av, a major fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. While I think there was good intention in that email, there was an element of "Gotcha!" in it as well. What rabbi would schedule a kid’s birthday party on Tishah B’av?  I replied that we did, in...

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In order to control the world around you, you must first be able to control yourself.

When everything seems to be spinning out of control, it is often not what is happening outside that is the root of the problem, but what is happening inside.

This concept not only applies to individuals, but also to groups.

This past week, the front page of my newspaper in Israel presented different variations of the same headline every day.

“Day after attack on soldier, ultra-Orthodox neighborhood unabashed”

“Two charged in attack on ultra-Orthodox soldier”

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I had a friend in college named Ray. He was a good guy. He had a lot of the qualities I thought I lacked when I was in college. Ray was good looking, athletic and charismatic. He was a running back on the school's football team. He loved to hang around with attractive women, and they seemed to love hanging around him, too. 

Ray also was smart and had a good heart. He and I were allies in student government. We worked together on a campaign to get our school to divest from companies that did business in South Africa. It was a strategy to put pressure on a racist, apartheid...

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