A Lesson for Tisha B'Av

In the past year, between Tisha B'Av and Tisha B'Av, the prophets of wrath and the prophecies of destruction have multiplied.

In the past year, between Tisha B'Av and Tisha B'Av, the prophets of wrath and the prophecies of destruction have multiplied. There are those who prophesied global destruction because of global warming, and there are those who prophesied local destruction because of the moral decline of generations. Nostradamus, who heralded the end of the world, had heirs, just as Isaiah Ben Amotz, in whose vision the land was destroyed, had successors: "Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah" (Isaiah 1:9). In other words, there is nowhere to run: As if a man did flee from the next war and an iceberg hit him (see Amos 5:19).

Teachers are sometimes deeply grateful that Tisha B'Av does not fall during the school year, but rather during the summer vacation. If this were not the case, teachers would be obligated to explain at greater length the meaning of Tisha B'Av and its significance. This is the day on which all the troubles fell: the destruction of the First Temple, the destruction of the Second Temple, the fall of Betar that put an end to the Bar Kochba rebellion and also the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. With so many terrible things to relay, the teachers of Israel would collapse while their students developed post-traumatic syndromes.

Even scarier than the disasters themselves are the explanations that are given. No teacher would be able to relay them, because they are so ridiculous: The First Temple fell because of idolatry and incest and bloodshed, whereas the Second Temple fell "because baseless hatred became rampant, which teaches you that baseless hatred is as grave as the three sins of worshiping false gods, incest and bloodshed" (Tractate Yoma 9B).

"The worship of false gods" is idolatry and there is no idol more despised and loathed than the golden calf. Because of the golden calf, the tablets of the Ten Commandments were smashed and about 3,000 people fell under the swords of Moses and the Levites.

But it seems the calf itself was not destroyed. It is here - and not just one, but several. The leaders build them - eating, drinking, laughing and "acting for the benefit of their households."

"Incest" is forbidden sexual relations between relatives, but incest between secretaries, assistants, advisers and office managers is also forbidden. "Bloodshed" is spilling blood and blood is being spilled here like water.

In the test of the necessary conditions for destruction, the situation does indeed presage bad things, and this even before the discussion of "baseless hatred," which was powerful enough on its own to destroy a Temple. The Third Temple is in imminent danger, if we judge by the precedents. Manifestations of hatred are frequent in this place; there is no one who isn't hated by someone and everyone hates someone else. But "baseless" hatred is, in fact, hard to identify.

Is the hatred by those who are screwed for those who are screwing them baseless? Is the hatred by those who have been weakened for those who have also weakened their children baseless? Wouldn't the abused hate those who abuse them and the exploited hate those who exploit them? And if they cheat us and steal our money and deceive us, wouldn't we hate? And mortally ill people who want for their last dose of medication, Holocaust survivors who are tired of so much surviving, soldiers abandoned at the front and civilians betrayed in their homes - will their hatred be held against them? And what about ordinary moderate people who want a life and feel threatened by the today's fanatic assassins, and the right turn at the end of the world in security, the economy and the quality of environment and the society?

No, there is no baseless hatred here. There is a lot of hatred here, which is not only human but also essential as a self-defense mechanism. How will living creatures defend themselves against those who rise up to endanger them, to corrupt them, to make them dismal and to atrophy them without this good hatred?

The summer vacation spares teachers from getting embroiled in the absurdities of silly sages. In any case, no one has any intention of telling students the truth about the destruction of the Temples. And the truth is much, much simpler: Twice Israel acted insanely, imagined itself a power and taunted two world empires, first Babylon and then Rome. Israel in its stupidity ignored the limits of its power - its power was not invincible and hence it was punished. It isn't this legacy of war that they are interested in bequeathing here.