Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Counteracting the meraglim

The Second Beit HaMikdash was famously destroyed due to sinat chinam (baseless hatred). Yet, Tisha B’Av’s designation as a day of mourning predates either Mikdash.

As we read in Parshat Shlach, the meraglim (spies)slandered Eretz Yisrael, and in response, the nation cried all night. The Gemara (BT Taanit 29a) teaches:

“Rabbah said in the name of R’ Yochanan, ‘That day was the day before Tisha B’Av. HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to them: “You wept a gratuitous weeping, and I will establish for you a weeping for the generations.”’”

And so, as an antidote to the meraglim, I’d like to present – with your permission – one of the myriad things I love about our beautiful Land: namely, the fact that this is a Jewish country.

Several examples:

1) The Jewish calendar

In Israel, the calendar revolves around the Jewish festivals, and “the holiday season” refers to Tishrei - not December. Also, even secular Israelis wish each other a “Shabbat Shalom” and/or a “Chag Samei’ach”.

2) Corporate culture

As some of you know, the CTO is spending his summer working at a high-tech firm.

Although I was a few years older than he is now when I was first introduced to corporate America, I experienced a bit of a culture shock. By the end of the first day, I realized that I wasn’t in Kansas Stern College anymore.

In contrast, there’s a daily mincha minyan in the CTO’s building. (On Shivah Assar B’Tamuz, he and his fellow congregants went next door to a different building, which has a Sefer Torah.) Also, each day, the employees are served breakfast (pastry, cheeses, and vegetables), and it’s all kosher. And when he went out to lunch with his co-workers last week, they ate at a mehadrin restaurant.

3) Shaving during the Three Weeks

Unless matters have changed drastically over the past eleven years, when the Three Weeks or Sefirah rolls around, most employees in the Diaspora have to shave.

But here in Israel, during this time of year, one sees men all over the place sporting what can charitably be described as “the scruffy look”, and yet no one thinks twice. It’s not considered to be unprofessional to observe Jewish mourning practices, and even the IDF permits religious soldiers to refrain from shaving when it is prohibited by Jewish law.

Feel free to leave your own examples in the comment section.

.יה”ר שיבנה בית המקדש במהרה בימינו


Have an easy and meaningful fast.


  1. That does sound really nice, makes me think of what it will be like when Moshiach comes, where we will be able to practice the Jewish mitzvos and it will be the norm.

  2. About the shaving. Because it's something men in chu"l consider as more important than halacha, I always enjoy seeing Israeli men, politicians, not always known as religious even, announcers etc with their sfira, shloshim and 3 weeks beards on TV.

    Here it's accepted to take time off from work to go to a brit or funeral. Funerals are much, much larger than in chu"l, even for just ordinary people.

  3. The difference in work environments is one of the things I really love about being here. I remember having to suffer through "holiday parties" at work in the US, with various carols playing in the background, while here we have festive meetings at work twice a year-before RH and Pesach.

  4. JS of B - It's a privilege to live here in Israel where living a Jewish way of life is B"H already the norm.

    Muse - Here it's accepted to take time off from work to go to a brit or funeral.
    Good point. It's even accepted for an entire office to close so that everyone in the office can attend.

    Malke - And on a related note, the "shai lachag" (holiday gift) is also given before R"H.

  5. I like that even the crummiest falafel stands or pizza joints have designated hand-washing sinks. And I like that the official university year begins "acharei hechagim." And that when we went to a museum yesterday in the Old City of Jerusalem, we were walking through actual archaeological finds, and not models...

  6. Toby - Sounds like a perfect way to spend Tisha B'Av! Which museum did you go to?
    Shabbat Shalom!

  7. We were aiming to go to the Burnt House (seemed appropriate), but when we got there, we needed to wait around 45 minutes for the next "show." They recommended we check out the Herodian Quarter Museum while we waited (which we had never heard of before) and it was really impressive - much more so than the Burnt House. I highly recommend it!

  8. Toby - The "Herodian Quarter Museum" is the one under Yeshivat Hakotel, right? If so, I agree. It's on a completely different scale than the Burnt House.

    Having said that, I should note that we went to the BH on Pesach. We had been there before, but this was our first time since they installed the new A/V show. It's kind of melodramatic but very powerful. (The younger kids were a bit scared.)


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