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Unfortunately our coronavirus crisis is being chronic. I pray that you stay well and safe and have access to the needs of your life. 

Our lives have been turned upside down, and there doesn’t seem to be much light in the tunnel we are in. Infection numbers are rising, there is no consistent or reliable information coming from federal authorities, and local governments are hamstrung in their attempts to create a systematic national response to the pandemic. In response to regular, legal, and unarmed protests and vigils, the WH has sent unmarked federal agents to Portland to steal them off the street and take them away. The Confederate flag is finally starting to be banned in public spaces, and as I write this today, the son of a federal judge was assassinated when he answered the door at his parents' house; her husband was also shot and wounded, while the judge herself happened to be in the basement. 

In the Jewish year we have also entered a difficult time called The Three Weeks. This year these are July 9 - 30. In the Jewish calendar this time begins on 17 Tammuz and concludes on the saddest day in the Jewish year, Tisha B’Av. This date (which translates into the 9th of Av), commemorates disasters and tragedies throughout Jewish history, including when Moses broke the original tablets, the spies returned with a bad report, both Temples were destroyed, Jews were expelled from England, then later from Spain, the beginning of both World Wars, and the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community in Buenos Aires in 1994.  

In Hebrew, the period of the Three Weeks is known as “bein hametzarim,” or, literally, “within the straits” or “within the borders.” This name comes from Lamentations, or Eicha, which is read on Tisha B’Av: Judah has gone into exile because of affliction, and because of great servitude. She dwelt among the nations, she found no rest; all her pursuers overtook her within the borders (Lamentations 1:3). During the Three Weeks traditionally no weddings, or public celebrations are held, abstention from getting haircuts and shaving, and refrain from going to concerts or listening to music. Tisha B’Av is a full day of mourning, marked by fasting and prayer. 

It might seem odd to intentionally observe a holiday that mirrors the kind of time we are living through now, and there are definite and helpful reasons: a reminder that we’ve endured tragedy and even apocalypse before, that even the worst of times passed eventually, and that we cannot be forced to abandon our identity or our mission. We also remember the individuals who did not survive our tragedies through the ages, knowing that their sacrifice enabled us to reach this day alive. 

Our sages teach that the destruction of the Second Temple was only partially due to the strength of the Roman Empire. They agree that while the Empire had a massive army, the only reason it was able to defeat the Israelites was due to the sin of sinat hinam, of baseless hatred within the community. The only remedy powerful enough to confront it was ahavat hinam, baseless love. In our mystical literature it is related to Chesed, Divine lovingkindness, also known as grace. It’s opposite is not hatred, but Divine Judgement, usually understood as God's mode of judgement and punishment. It is the foundation of stringency, absolute adherence to the letter of the law, and strict meting out of justice which is equated with the law. 

So I believe we have a choice; actually I believe we’ve always had the choice, to interpret the world through the quality of Judgement or the quality of Grace. I suggest that we are witnessing now how the world can turn when the quality of Judgement is out of balance. 

Let me give you an example of what I am saying. Imagine you live in the apartment of your dreams… in that apartment you’ve just spent $50,000 on a brand new handmade special order white wool 12 x 12 carpet… for some reason you’ve also acquired a Great Dane. Here’s the scenario: you come home one day to find a Great Dane-sized mess on your carpet. Do you (1) run to your dog to comfort it, or (2) yell at the dog and run around screaming about the mess? Once you’ve figured that out for yourself, know that the carpet is your life as you’ve worked for it all these years, the mess is the world and the Great Dane is all the people in it. 


What a mess! What do you do? Photo courtesy of Etz Chaim.

For the sake of all of our lives, may you grow to view the world through the quality of Lovingkindness.