I always approach this time of year with great apprehension. The question often looms in the back of my mind, ‘What will transpire this summer? What bad news are we in for…?’
I know this is not looking at life with the glass half full, but unfortunately we know that the 3 weeks are a foreboding time, especially the last 9 days. This summer has proven to be quite brutal thus far. Leiby Kletsky, who was mutilated in a most horrific way; then the outrageous incident in Norway; US economy plummeting, to name but a few; and closer to home, my miscarriage.
In general, I am a very enthusiastic person, with a very positive outlook. The reality is though, the Jewish Calendar runs in a spiral, and every year we are revisited by the same energy field, at each specific point in the year.
According to Rabbi Shalom Arush in his latest book, Garden of Gratitude, he mentions that the reason we are in this predicament, is because of one reason – we complained. We complained when we left Egypt. We left a life of bondage and torture. However for some this seemed more comforting that the great unknown. (I suppose it was a very different world in those days. They never had Google Earth!) We then complained of were hungry, G-d sent manna. Then we complained that we really wanted meat. So G-d sent quail. Then – when we sent spies to go check out the land of Israel, the report back was not so favourable, and the children of Israel moaned and cried. After all G-d did for us and all the miracles He performed to get us out of 210 years of slavery, we were not all that grateful. So like any parent G-d said that because we cried for nothing, He was now going to give us a reason to cry…
Rabbi Arush states that it seems an unfitting punishment. A few complaints here and there? Why were we punished so severely? Both our temples were destroyed on 9 Av, World war I began on that day, the Spanish Inquisition also started on that day. The 3 weeks have always been a time of bloodshed and fear. Why such harsh judgement, and for so many thousands of years? The answer, he says, is that we are STILL complaining!
Since we know how we got to be in such a predicament, the tikun (repair), would be gratitude – the opposite of discontentment. I have taken this lesson very much to heart and after all that has happened in this passed month, I am trying to find what to be grateful for in each incident. I find that really focusing on my blessings, has given me a different outlook. It has enabled me to have greater clarity on a spiritual level, and the realization that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be, and to stop trying to change things that are seemingly out of my control, rather enjoy my life and live in the moment.
I am reading another book called Touched by their Tears, by Rabbi Yechiel Spero. He gives over various parables that enable us to evoke emotions, that will allow us the comparable feeling of missing the Beis Hamikdash. His intention for this book was as an aid to getting into the ‘mood’ for 9 Av. He is a gifted writer, whose words have entered my soul and really allowed me to cry real tears, due to the lack of having the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) in our midst.
I had an epiphany the other night, while I was reading his book. I left South Africa 13 years ago. Unlike many thousands who left, I did not leave out of choice. I ran away ( another story for another time)! I always miss Africa, my parents, my family, my friends and my familiarity. Life in South Africa, despite all its problems, is like nowhere else on earth. In fact I think the Lubavitche Rebbe was quoted as saying SA is like Gan Eiden (paradise). I often think why so many of us had to make the difficult choice of leaving our families. Of leaving a country with so much physical beauty, such rich culture and such a vibrant Jewish life. I always thought of it as a punishment of sorts. However,through reading Rabbi Spero’s book, I was able to have another, more sanguine understanding. The way I miss my parents, and everything that is there, the first 24 years of my life, my history. This longing and desire to be reunited and to be back there living in harmony should be akin to me missing the reality of a life with the Beis Hamikdash. In my mind, this is why we had to be plucked from such a perfect life. Why a seemingly ideal existence was shattered by crime. So we could miss our old lives.
In the same vein, for those of you who are not South African, we all have incidents in our lives that resonate with that longing , that desire – and the realization that we can no longer have it. We need to grab onto that feeling and translate it into longing for the holy temple. We need to take those tears and cry out for salvation from any more tragedy, illness or misfortune.
And while we are crying, we need to be grateful. Grateful that we see the gift in each adversity, and pray that we all one day soon, will live lives of prosperity and joy.