Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Devarim - 5773

My friends,

Greetings and best wishes from Eretz Yisrael.

This Shabbat we read the portion of Devarim, the first parasha in the fifth Book of the Torah. It is known as Shabbat Hazon, named for the first words of the Haftarah, taken from the Book of Isaiah. It always precedes the Fast of the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'av), the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, commemorating the destruction of the First Temple in the year 586 BCE by the Babylonians, the destruction of the Second Temple and Exile from Israel in the Year 70 CE by the Romans, and also the Inquisition period and Exile for the large Jewish Community of Spain in 1492.

I happen to be in Israel at this time, before Tisha B'av. What does it feel like to be in Israel on this day?

It really makes you think about our history. We were exiled from this land for close to 2000 years. Now our people live on this land and we are all proud of their accomplishments and what they have turned this land into.

It's a beautiful land, from different aspects. While facing enemies from near and far and having to spend a large chunk of the budget on security, Israel is vibrant - culturally and economically - and strong militarily. The very unique and extraordinary beauty of the land are its inhabitants, having come from all corners of the earth. If not for the rejection of the Arab world and all those who wish Israel ill, the story of the return, the gathering of the exiles and their unbelievable achievements could be called the miracle story of the twentieth century.

So should we continue to observe Tisha B'av? I believe there is still much to be done.

In addition to the security questions, there is much Sinat Hinnam - Baseless Hate - in Israel today, just like there was during the time of the Second Temple and which, according to our sages, was the cause of the destruction of the temple. The hate by the ultra Orthodox for the State, the warring parties, etc., are concerns that weaken the State of Israel.

But there is much to be proud and thankful for.

After these thousands of years of exile, there is a Jewish home today. The oppressed from Arab lands, from Ethiopia, and the survivors of the killing fields of Europe, have built a new and proud home. The Conversos, or the Anusim, those who were forced to convert to Christianity and who lived in hiding for the past 500 years, are returning to their roots and finding Judaism again - all because of the State of Israel.

May it live and be strong for the next 2000 years.

Shabbat Shalom,