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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson


Judaism has a daily rhythm that emphasizes joy and gratitude.

So Tisha b'Av (this coming Tuesday, August 9th), when we mourn the destruction of two Holy Temples, two Jewish commonwealths and the many individual tragedies that punctuate our world, feels a bit anomalous.

Here’s a story that can help frame a healthy approach to this day:

A Holocaust survivor, a man whose family had been gassed, whose entire community had been wiped out, whose world was decimated, visited his spiritual master after the war.

After they shared, mourned and sobbed the Rabbi spoke:

In the Torah, Moses describes his descent from Mount Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments:

"I descended from the mountain;" Moses recalls, "and the two tablets of the Covenant were in my hands. I saw that you had sinned ….making a [golden] calf…... I grasped the two tablets, and threw them down….and I smashed them before your eyes."

Now, considering Scripture’s well known precision, Moses' words "I smashed them before your eyes" seem curious. Why was it important to note that it occurred "before your eyes"? What difference does that make?

What Moses was saying, explained the Rabbi, was that "I smashed the tablets ONLY before your eyes. The shattering of the tablets certainly happened; at the same time, there exists a dimension of reality where the tablets have never been broken. Before our eyes, we have witnessed the Holocaust’s destruction and devastation. Yet, as difficult as it is for us to believe, our people still exist - intact - beyond the evil’s harmful reach.”

"The day will come," said the Rabbi, "when that world will be exposed. G-d will expand our perceptions and mend our hearts; then, we’ll discover how the tablets were never broken and the Jewish people were always complete."

This Shabbos, the Shabbos before Tisha b”av, is known as the ‘Shabbos of Vision’ (because Isaiah’s vision is read after the Torah reading). The Rebbe would often quote the Chassidic idea that G-d takes the opportunity on this Shabbos to show us - at a soul level - the Temple in its full glory.

As we prepare to immerse ourselves in the sadness of destruction, we need to recognize that there’s more to reality than what meets the eye. We need to know that wholeness still exists in our souls, in our relationships and in our world.

We can get there.

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