Today is February 23, 2018 -
Monday night on Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the month of Av), we commemorate the destruction of both of our Holy Temples. Our Talmudic sages determined that the second Temple was destroyed because of our sin of sinat chinam (baseless hatred). Rav Kook, pre-Israel’s first chief rabbi, wrote, “If we were destroyed, and the world with us, due to baseless hatred, then we shall rebuild ourselves, and the world with us, with baseless love–ahavat chinam.”
Sadly, I do not think that we are in the rebuilding phase yet. On Rosh Chodesh Av (the 1st day of the month of Av), the Women of the Wall illegally brought a Torah scroll into the women’s section of the Kotel, as they try to do for the celebration of every new moon, and they were greeted with “whistling, shouting, spitting, cursing, chanting, and jeering” from fellow Jews. There is a whole lot wrong with this behavior at the Kotel, and I fear that sinat chinam is at the core of it. Our national office continues to work to resolve issues, but it looks to be a slow process.
This news is sad, but I do have a little good news for you as well. Here in Northeastern New York, we are practicing ahavat chinam. I have told you before that we will be hosting the JCC Maccabi Games, but they are now nine short days away! Six hundred visiting teen athletes and their families are coming together for some friendly competition, social activities, and community service programs. Getting ready for these games has been an incredible team effort by many members of our Jewish community, irrespective of our denominational (or other) differences. Thousands of professional and volunteer hours have gone into making these games successful.
If you have not yet signed up to volunteer, please visit the Capital Region JCC Maccabi Games website for more information, to register, and to choose some shifts. This is one of the biggest undertakings our Jewish community has ever attempted, and I very strongly encourage everyone to be a part of it. Security will be very tight, so everyone must register, even to volunteer. Opening ceremonies are next Sunday evening at the Times Union Center. Everyone is welcome, but you absolutely must register in advance. I hope to see you there.