16/17 July 2021, 7/8 Av 5781

The 9th Av is the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar, when the destructions of the first and second temple are mourned.

The day has become a magnet of grief and now marks the day of all Jewish atrocities.

Indeed the Haredim in Israel boycotted the creating of Yom HaShoah (holocaust remembrance day) because, they argued, there already was a day of mourning.

As Progressive Jews the day has lost some of its intensity as our Judaism doesn’t focus on temple rebuilding and return. But the idea of mourning and grief is powerful, maybe particularly this year.

The rabbis, romantically, suggest sinat chinam, senseless hatred in the Jewish community was the cause of the destruction and suffering. Historically we know the Romans were responsible for the second temple destruction and exile. However the destructive idea of hate is compelling.

We’ve seen such an outpouring of racist hatred this week following the Euros 2021 final on Sunday evening. It is all our responsibility, not just the recipients of such abuse. Children this week have been racially abused on the way to school in our neighbourhood.

We are all duty bound to cry out when our community and society is permeated by such poison. Indeed the prophet Isaiah will remind us of our duty this Shabbat. To be a Jew is to be part of this conversation and as passionate about the sinat chinam that exists as we are about our religious rites:

Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies

The 9th Av gives us pause to consider exile, destruction and hatred and to reflect and respond. Reinvigorating our festival year to bring renewed meaning is at the heart of being a Jew.

Shabbat Shalom