The bleakest fast of the year is Tisha b’Av, commemorating the destruction of both Temples (in 586 B.C.E. and 70 C.E.). We begin preparing ourselves to feel the enormity of the loss from the 17th of Tammuz, the day the Roman armies breached the wall around Jerusalem; the expressions of mourning intensify with the start of Av; and then on Tisha b’Av, we fast, sitting low to the ground as we read the Scroll of Lamentations and recite dirges.
How will I die? What if (anything) happens to me (if there even still is a “me”) next? How will my death impact those I leave behind? The Talmud asks these questions in response to the death of Miriam and Aaron, part of this week’s sedra.
Q: How much eccentric behavior should a synagogue community tolerate?
I am the president of a small synagogue in the metropolitan area. Our staff consists of a part-time rabbi, a weekly bookkeeper and a maintenance person. Volunteers keep the synagogue going, and we pride ourselves on our welcoming environment. People of different ages and socioeconomic situations come to our services and programs.
Between the lines of the Bible, we glimpse the difficulties — even tragedy — of Moses, the greatest prophet in history who nevertheless sees himself losing the fealty of the Hebrew nation, failing to direct the people toward the very goal of their Exodus; the conquest of and settlement of the Land of Israel. Where has he gone wrong, and why?