Adath Jeshurun meets every Shabbos morning at
9:30 AM at 401 City Center Boulevard, Newport News, Virginia   23606

Tel. #757-930-0820 website: www.ajshul.com  
Rabbi Gershon Litt: 757-362-4824

No Vacation for Us
Rabbi Gershon Litt

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This is a very interesting time of year. Most Jews assume that during the summer we take our “spiritual vacations.” There are no major holidays, no large celebrations, no days that you need tickets to go to synagogue, no extra fried foods or stale crackers.  At first glance we should say that during the summer we Jews, “Have off.” At second glance, however, we see that this is far from the truth. We are currently at the end of what we call, “The three weeks.” These weeks culminate with one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar – Tisha B’Av. This year we commemorate Tisha B’Av on Sunday, July 26th. It is actually on July 25th, but since we are not allowed to fast or be mournful on the Sabbath, we push off the day to give it the proper deference it deserves.
As was indicated above, Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning. On this day, and for the three weeks preceding the holiday, we remember the destruction of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem and all of the inquisitions, holocausts, and destructions throughout our history. We recall all of the tragedies that have befallen our people and all of the difficult times that we have gone through. Tisha B’av is a day where we fast, we mourn, and we reflect on why these tragedies have occurred.
While we, as humans, can never truly know why horrific things have befallen our people, our sages say that the destruction of our Holy Temple, and subsequently our continued exile, is for one reason – the way that we mistreat others. Our sages teach us that it was the baseless hatred between Jews that caused the Temple to fall. The Roman attack was the tool that G-d used in order to show us that we had gone astray. The destruction and the displacement of millions of Jews during this time was not because we were not keeping strict Torah law. It was because we were not keeping one law – “Love your neighbor as yourself, I am G-d.” (Leviticus 19:18)
This time of year sets us up for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It gets us in the right frame of mind. It allows us to contemplate our relationships with our fellow man in order so that we can start to think about our relationship between ourselves and Our Creator. This time of year is possibly the most important time of year. We should be turning to each other and to ourselves and fixing relationships and honing in on why we may speak negatively about others. This “lashon hara,” evil speech, destroys Temples and destroys lives. The worst lie that a parent can ever tell their child is that old saying, “Sticks and stones and break my bones but words can never hurt me.” This is simply wrong. Words do hurt. Bones heal, but words stay in our minds forever. Let us use this time of year to strengthen ourselves and our community so that this year we will all be able to have a part in rebuilding our internal temple and The Temple in the holy city of Jerusalem.

Rabbi Gershon Litt is the rabbi at Adath Jeshurun Synagogue, the executive director of the Norfolk Kollel, and the Director of the Hillels at the College of William and Mary and Christopher Newport University.