Aug 3, 2006

What's it really about, then?

Speak now, or forever hold your matzo balls.

I can't not say something. After fasting for a little more than 24 hours and reading Eicha and listening to it be chanted via the vast tubes of the Interweb, how can I not say something about Guy Oren's column on Ynetnews? His approach to Tisha B'av for secular Jews is frustrating and makes me wonder why he's so adament on creating two ways to celebrate -- one for observant Jews and one for secular Jews. But not only that, but his ignorance and narrow-mindedness are astounding.

Oren argues that the day of mourning and the weeks leading up to it mean nothing to the modern secular Jew and that it should be held in the esteem of a day where we celebrate -- not mourn -- the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. Oren says that the destruction was a sign of the end of priestly dominance and opression of the Jewish people and the birth of forward-thinking Judaism. But wait! With the end of priestly Judaism was the birth of rabbinic Judaism, and we can be smiles and hugs all we want about the righteousness of our rabbis, but was there not rabbinic dominance in Judaism? Rabbis became the final say on topics and in some places their power was disgustingly oppresive. No religious authority is perfect, though.

Oren says, "The 2,000-year hope to spend next year in rebuilt Jerusalem has been realized. Almost any Jew can exercise his right to live in Jerusalem." Who is this guy kidding? If every Jew in the world were to pack up and head to Jerusalem and set up shop ... boy ... all hell would break loose, no? We live in a time when "Who is a Jew?" dominates Jewish society in Israel and abroad, not to mention the occupation of Hezbollah and Hamas in Jerusalem and all of Israel. Jerusalem is not rebuilt, the Beit HaMikdash is not rebuilt and Oren is naive.

Furthermore, he suggests that we need to
"free ourselves from the skewed, perverted vision of restoring the temple." Perverted vision? Excuse me? I understand Oren is secular, and I understand that perhaps the role of the Temple in Oren's life is little less than an archaic vision of animal sacrifices and a close-minded people in control by the kohenim. But his vision of the Temple is awfully screwed up.

Perhaps the most inflammatory remark Oren makes is that "
The messages of Tisha B'av are irrelevant for secular Jews." There are Jews. Jews are Jews. Secular or not, you are a Jew. I'm a Jew, Jesus was a Jew, David was a Jew, Woody Allen is a Jew, Kirk Douglas is a Jew, Jon Stewart is a Jew. Oren says, "Secular Jews must not ignore this message and leave Judaism to the religious." But Jewish holidays should be relevent for all Jews, no matter how religious or secular you are. Tisha B'av is a day to mark all events that have caused a major blow to the Jewish people's livelihood and threatened our existence -- the declaration of the Crusades, the destructions of the Temples, the destruction of the Talmud in a public space, the First World War, expulsions. It isn't just about religion, it's about the people and the history and the furthering of the existence of Jewishness.

I can't help -- when secular Jews and ultra-orthodox jews claim that they are more or less righteous or religious than everyone else -- but think that when they come for us, they come for us. They don't come for Secular Jew or Reform Jew or Orthodox Jew or Reconstructionist Jew or Jew turned Christian ... they come for the Jews. It's haunting, but it's true. And it is a truth for all peoples. So damnit, quit trying to create a divide when there is already so much already.

Thus, my conclusion on the finality of Tisha B'av 5766? I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders and tikkun olam in my bones. Wouldn't the world be an entirely better place if all peoples spent one day fasting and reflecting on the destruction and desolation of the oppressed? There's so much, and it's easy to ignore it as we go about the daily grind. But if everyone stopped for 24 hours and reflected on the death, hunger, oppression, abuse ... I think it would be startling and changing.

But what do I know? I'm a Jew from Nebraska who grew up in the Ozarks and went to a Midwestern liberal arts school for a journalism degree that I don't necessarily want anymore. I'm jealous of my friends in far-away countries who are gritting their teeth every day and bathing in nothing but blistering heat. I can edit the copy and clean it up all I want, but can't I argue grammar while doing something that will effect tikkun olam?


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