Monday, February 17, 2020

Throughout history, the Nine Days leading to Tisha B’Av have been fraught with sadness and tragic events impacting Jews and non-Jews alike.

As the wax on the Havdalah candle was barely dry last Motzei Shabbat, we learned of a horrible mass shooting that ultimately claimed the lives of at least 22 innocent people at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart. Only hours later, nine more people died in Dayton, Ohio, also because of a monster with a powerful gun.

President Donald Trump was quick to condemn the mass shootings, saying, “In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”

The president called on the FBI to investigate the tragedies as domestic terrorism and hate crimes. The El Paso shooter, captured alive, was looking to kill Hispanic people. The Dayton shooter had showed a video of the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting to an ex-girlfriend.

This Saturday night brings in Tisha B’Av. Many of us might be wondering what we can do to help or to bring about a better world. Tisha B’Av, a day marking the destruction of our Holy Temples and other calamities perpetrated against the Jewish people, is an opportunity for us.

It is second only to Yom Kippur in solemnity. We feel that our fasting, our prayers and our reading of Lamentations, done with commitment and sincerity, not only can help the Jewish people but the entire world. We must observe Tisha B’Av as if the world were counting on us to bring about positive change everywhere, including places such as El Paso and Dayton that aren’t as familiar to many of us in the tri-state area.

Our prayers have power. At a vigil held for the Walmart victims last Sunday, rabbis wearing a tallit stood before a crowd thousands strong and sang the words “Oseh Shalom. May the One who brings peace to the heavens bring peace upon us.” These rabbis knew that our pleas to Hashem can help bring about change in the world.

Have a meaningful Tisha B’Av and easy fast. The world is counting on us.