2018-07-18 / Religion Column

Tisha B’Av: Renewing a call to civility and tolerance

RABBI YISROEL TZVI SEREBROWSKI
Torah Links of South Jersey

The Talmud (Tractate Yoma 9b) states, “In the era of the Second Temple, the people studied Torah and performed mitzvos, so why was the Second Temple destroyed? Because there was baseless hatred amongst people.”

This ancient malady of baseless hatred is unfortunately very much alive and well. Here in the United States, our nation seems to be hellbent on dividing itself into hyperpartisan political blocs. Demagoguery rules; thoughtful debate is dead. Name-calling and harassment of opponents is the new norm. Old friendships and close relationships are being torn asunder by differing political opinions. There are those who no longer share their beliefs as they are afraid that they will be viciously attacked. Our society is quite literally unraveling and fraying at the seams.

The question we must each ask ourselves is: What can I do to help reverse this unfortunate trend?

The following story offers a glimpse of a possible solution to help heal our fractured society.

A prominent rabbi and a cadre of his followers arrived at a wedding hall. As the rabbi made his way through the crowded ballroom, the father of the bride, noticing him, called out in a loud voice, “No one called for you!” The rabbi’s followers were aghast. The rabbi, it seemed, was being humiliated in public, as he was being told in no uncertain terms, that his presence was not welcome at the affair. Nevertheless, the rabbi smiled at the father of the bride, hugged him, and wished him a warm Mazel Tov. Upon exiting the wedding hall, some of the students who had witnessed the unfortunate incident, expressed their deep displeasure at the embarrassment that their rabbi was made to endure.

With a twinkle in his eye the rabbi explained, “No, no, you don’t understand. This morning, the father of the bride and I attended the same prayer service. I noticed that he looked extremely aggravated. I approached him and asked if all was okay. He told me that he had lost his cellphone, and as he was making a wedding that day, it would cause him untold hardships. As I have two cellphones, I immediately offered him one of my own, and told him that should anyone call for me, he should give them my other number to reach me.”

Thus, said the rabbi, “As I entered the hall, when the father of the bride saw me, seeking to reassure me that I had not missed any important communications, he called out, no one called for you.”

All too often, we make snap judgments without taking the time or care to properly investigate as to what really happened. Even when we do, we often judge more harshly than is necessary.

As we approach Tisha B’Av, the sad anniversary of the destruction of our Holy Temple, the cause of which was baseless hatred; it would behoove us to begin to train ourselves to judge others more favorably. We should try to realize that more often than not, there is a valid explanation for the seeming damning actions and positions of others. We just have to be open to hearing it. If the shoe were on the other foot, we would certainly want others to judge us favorably. So why not do so for others?

This Tisha B’Av, we should commit to listen thoughtfully to the opinions of others, respectfully debate the issues, and when necessary agree to (without being disagreeable) disagree.

May this Tisha B’Av be a clarion call for us to begin to heal as a society, and hopefully regain a measure of civility, tolerance, and respect for others. Amen! 

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