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Monday, July 15, 2013

Why Jews commemorate our defeats

Twelve and a half years ago, Mrs. Carl and I and the then-baby took a week-long trip to Spain using frequent flier mileage and compensation from Iberia for sending my luggage to Cuba a couple of years before (really!). For the Sabbath we were in Madrid and stayed in a hotel called the Trafalgar, because it was the only hotel that was in walking distance to the Chabad emissary, who was the only Kosher place to eat on the Sabbath.

The emissary had 20-30 people at his table, some of whom were Brits, and I can recall that when I mentioned the name of the hotel where we were staying, one of the Brits remarked that it was odd that the Spaniards chose to remember their defeats. Well, it's not so odd. We Jews do the same thing. It's called Tisha b'Av.
On that date the following awful events occurred:
586 BCE – The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians
70 AD – The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans and the Jews fled into the Diaspora – mostly areas surrounding the Mediterranean including Spain.
133 CE – Simon bar Kochba Revolt with remaining Jews warring against the Romans brutally butchered in the final battle at Betar.
1290 – July 18 King Edward I expelled the Jews of England
1492 – August 2 – Expulsion of Jews from Spain as a result of the Inquisition. Among them a likely Jew, Christopher Columbus, who, with his Jewish navigators, took his 3 ships to look for riches in the New World.
1941 – August 2 – The German Nazi SS murdered 600 Jews in Targivica, Ukraine with the Ukrainians participating joyously as “Willing Executioners.” (Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Jonah Goldhaggen 1996 No. 1 bestseller)
So why do we remember our tragedies? Watch the video here to find out.

I will be offline for parts of today and tomorrow, because synagogue services are longer, because I need to contemplate the destruction, and because blogging while sitting on the floor is not easy. When I return from the afternoon prayers at the Kotel tomorrow, I will blog more regularly.

A reminder that the Kotel (Western Wall) is the outside wall of the Temple Mount on which the Temple actually stood, and visiting it on Tisha b'Av can be particularly moving.

May we be privileged to see the Third Temple on the Temple Mount, speedily and in our time.

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