August 2019, Parshat Devarim / Tisha B’Av

Dear Friends,

This week Shabbat correlates with the Hebrew date of Tisha B’av, the fast day of the 9th of Av. When this occurs, we move the fast day from Shabbat itself to the day after, which this year is this Sunday, 11 August 2019.

Tisha B’av is one of the saddest days in the Jewish calendar and the day itself includes many mourning rituals. We recite the Megillah of Eicha which laments the destruction of the Temples and Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish people.

However, as this year’s Tisha B’av falls on Shabbat, all public displays of mourning are strictly prohibited until Shabbat goes out. We eat, drink and rejoice as is customary on Shabbat as usual even though it is a generally subdued time.

In the past 3 weeks, we have hopefully undertaken some important introspection about our behaviours and tried to implement some positive changes to better ourselves as people that can have a positive on flow to our families, community and the wider world. As part of this introspection, we have not had haircuts, listened to music, celebrated weddings or held joyous festivities.

In addition, in the past nine days, we have also refrained from eating meat and drinking wine in addition to our other solemn behaviours. This is to prepare us for the upcoming fast of Tisha B’av which has consistently proven to be a tragic day in Jewish history where many ills befell the Jewish people.

On Tisha B’av itself, we fast and refrain from learning Torah, as this brings us joy, and we cease from any other joyous behaviours.

I invite all of you to the Ark Centre this Saturday night for our Tisha B’av program. Following the reading of the Megillah of Eicha we are holding a debate with members of our Kehillah debating the topic of the legalization of euthanasia. This event promises to be engaging and provide deep insights into an issue that is very relevant due to the recent passing of the Assisted Dying Legislation in Victoria in June 2019.

Additionally, this week’s Parsha is Devarim, the first portion in the fifth Book of the Torah. The entire book of Devarim is a retelling of the story of the people of Israel and their journeys through the desert. While the Book of Devarim seldom offers new information and is instead dedicated to the historical retelling of the stories of our people, I think its message is far greater.

By retelling the stories of our people Devarim helps us to realize that history has a habit of repeating itself, especially if people remain ignorant or do not learn the lessons of the past.

By reciting these stories, we empower ourselves to know our narrative, safeguard against detrimental behaviours and attitudes and ensure that we as a people learn the lessons of our past.

When looking at this week’s intersection of the Parsha of Devarim and Tisha B’av the overarching message is clear. We have to dig a little deeper to change the detrimental behaviours that lead to Tisha B’av.

Our past and history are important. Education is imperative to preserve the wonderful values and way of living that Judaism provides us, while at the same time continuing to help us maintain a life that invokes the values and lessons from the Torah.

I wish each of you a Shabbat Shalom and an easy fast and look forward to seeing you in Shule on Shabbat and Saturday Night.

Rabbi Gabi