Friday, August 08, 2008

Hard Rain

Dedicated to the memory In memory of Miriam bas Chaim, who passed away this week. Our deepest condolences to her family, and all those who have lost loved ones. May their memory be for a blessing.
To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.

Frankly, I’m having a hard time writing the Table Talk today.

The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, it’s a fine summer day.

A perfect summer’s day.

The other day, I was trying to get my children to eat their vegetables. I tried a trick that I learned years ago from a reader of this blog – I placed a plate of red and yellow peppers and cucumbers on the table and said, “These are dragon fingers, toes and eyes, please make sure that nobody eats them!” Then I walked away. Yoseph, who is 4, popped them in his mouth with a giggle and made sure that I saw him.

Devorah, who is 2, wasn’t quite there. I sat down next to her and put a baby carrot on her plate without saying anything.

When she noticed it, she picked it up with an exclamation, “For me? Just for me, not for ‘Sephi? Thank you!”

The other day, another reader of this list phoned me to relate that his sister, at age 50, had gone to bed with nausea and never woke up. They delayed the funeral to determine cause of death, but ultimately were unable to. Her time had come.

Around 600 years ago, Jewish people who lived in Spain, who were socially, financially and politically full participants in Spanish society (like our situation in America today?), faced such pressure to convert to Christianity that about half did. And those who converted were under constant suspicion of maintaining their Jewish identity in secret, to the point that the officers of the Church would interrogate neighbors and even servants to find out if the conversos were eating or avoiding pork, etc.

It got worse and worse until 516 years ago this weekend, when any non-converted Jews were told to leave the country. They were not allowed to take their money of course, just one suitcase per person, and the port of Barcelona was so clogged with ships of Jews who had waited until the deadline (perhaps hoping that the royal decree would be rescinded) that Columbus had to delay his departure by a day.

The Expulsion was just one of many catastrophes and holocausts. Most of us don’t like to think about these things too often, but the 9th of Av has been set aside for the past 1,938 years as a day to contemplate this pattern of Jewish history. The worst (at least in our minds) was the Holocaust. Here’s a trivia question for your table – when did the German Holocaust begin?

The answer: the 9th of Av, 1914. That’s when World War I began, an event that from a Jewish perspective was not separate from WWII. It was the beginning of a tremendous upheaval of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe that of course culminated in their destruction 30 years later. The destruction of 1,000,000 of our Yosephs and Devorahs.

If you would like to download some interesting ancient and modern readings for Tisha B’Av (Saturday night), please try these links:

1. Josephus Ch. V
2. Josephus Ch. VI
3. Josephs Ch. VII
4. Talmud Gittin
5. R. Weisz

Question for your table – The Destruction of both Temples, the horrible Crusades, the Expulsion from Spain, the Holocaust - What’s the common denominator?

Shabbat Shalom

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