Volume 30 Issue 21 23 Jul 2021 14 Av 5781

Reflecting on Tish’ah BeAv

Rabbi Daniel Siegel – Head of Jewish Life

Warranted Zealotry

Seeking to comprehend the great tragedy of the destruction of the Jewish Temple, our tradition speaks of sin’at chinam – Unwarranted hatred. It was internecine warfare and conflict among fellow Jews that resulted in the destruction of our people and our religious centre (the Romans being but a contributing agent).

Ironically, it was during a commemoration of Tish’ah BeAv at the Kotel, just several days ago, that sina’t chinam was again being descried for conflict between fellow Jews. Not agreeing with the appropriateness of an egalitarian minyan conducting Tish’ah BeAv services, a group of Jews disrupted and attacked members of this prayer group. In the words of Israeli Foreign Minsiter Yair Lapid: “On the day we commemorate the destruction of the Temple, a group of extremists decided to desecrate the holiness of the day and the holiness of the place and start a violent struggle at the Kotel. That’s the baseless hatred (sinat chinam) that led to the destruction of the Temple and our exile.”

Of course, members of the disrupting group would contend that it was this very form of transgression exhibited by this prayer group that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. They are the extremists who are now revisiting the tragedy by desecrating the destruction site of the temple.

And so it goes, and what have we learned and what has changed?

The word chinam, whether understood as baseless, unwarranted or gratuitous appears in our tradition’s lamentation literature in another form, chinam nimkarnu – we have been sold for naught, without warrant. It too recently was evoked with Poland’s parliament considering passing a law that would limit the possibility of Shoah survivors or their families recovering property taken from them (either by selling out Jews to the Nazis or taking their homes and property when their Jewish neighbours were sent to their deaths).

Here too, Lapid voiced his grave concern: “What happened on Polish soil during the Holocaust cannot be denied. Poland’s attempt to pass another law that tries to erase history and to clear them of responsibility for the property of Holocaust survivors is unacceptable and immoral. No law can erase the memory of the victims. Poland knows what it needs to do”.

Judaism zealously teaches that human life cannot be bartered, whether for personal gain or national or religious triumphalism. That is an extremism from which we all can gain and join in fellowship.