Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Ignoring and Ignorance of Tisha B'Av

It's surprising to see how Tisha B'Av is ignored by secular Jews, and the ignorance of it among certain fervently religious Jews.

Secular Jews have no interest in Tisha B'Av, which they see as a part of religious Judaism. But they are very passionate about remembering the Nazi Holocaust, and there is a motto of "Never Forget." Surely, by the same token, they should care about preserving the memory of the original Holocaust, the loss of the original State of Am Yisrael.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, there are some religious Jews who are convinced that they know all about what Tisha B'Av is all about. In the comments to last week's guest post about finding meaning on Tisha B'Av, someone called Dovid posted the following comment:

So sad. Some people are just missing what life is all about. And in this case, what tisha b'av is all about. What does this author think this day is in fact about? It's supposed to be about feeling like we're missing our basic personal connection with the בורא עולם. The fact that missing this connection doesn't make us sad is even more sad. This article is the writing of a person who has no connection to what Yiddishkeit is supposed to be about... Before the בית המקדש was destroyed there was נבואה. We were so close to הקב"ה that there were those that could talk to Him. Davening, which is supposed to be a conversation with השם, was done properly before the destruction, but with the destruction we have a טענת שיכור. We are missing in our connection, and very much yes, that is why we are sad.

This is a very nice frum sentiment, but it's not actually what Tisha B'Av is all about or even mostly about or even significantly about. The writer speaks about the loss of nevuah, but Yirmiyah was a navi, and he made it very clear in Megillas Eicha what Tisha B'Av is about. Eicha does not talk about the loss of nevuah. It's about the destruction of Jerusalem - including the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the loss of Jewish sovereignty, the consequent loss of national pride (which is mentioned several times), the starvation and exile, the rape and persecution, and the terrible loss of life. Likewise, Tisha B'Av commemorates similar national tragedies over the course of our history.

Now, there is also the cause of all this destruction, attributed to various sins, and there is the hope that nashuva. But even that is not about mourning the loss of spiritual connection - it's regretting sins that were committed, which is something very different. And you can also mourn the resultant loss of spiritual connection as a result of the events of Tisha B'Av. But Tisha B'Av itself is not primarily about that.

Does it matter? Yes, I think it does. Spirituality is very important, but we live in a time when many religious Jews rate personal spiritual growth too highly, at the expense of basic national priorities. And there is a sentiment that concern about national issues is somehow not very frum. It's important for people to read Eicha and think about about what it's actually saying.

47 comments:

  1. Nevuah ended over five hundred years before the Second Bayit was destroyed. (Over four hundred years, if you're charedi.)

    Of course, the loss of the Avodah is part of the mourning, but that increases the number of "don't really want it back" to include lots of Modern Orthodox and, let's be frank, lots of charedim too.

    "Secular Jews have no interest in Tisha B'Av, which they see as a part of religious Judaism."

    You'd be surprised. A completely secular guy in my office announced that he's going to try to fast for the first time this year.

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    1. Similarly, on the way to eichah last night I was stopped by a secular woman who wanted to know where she could hear eichah.

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  2. National priorities are part of spiritual development. The Torah has a national aspect as well as an individual aspect. Maybe more so!

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  3. Maybe I'm missing something in חזון ישעיה. There if anything, the נביא complains that the people had too much of a connection with the בורא עולם (and not enough of a connection with the poor, ophans and widows). Hashem found that kind of connection as overbearing, so he cast them out.

    Zecharia also told the people not to put too much faith into their connection with the בורא עולם. The people were confident that Hashem would never destroy His own house. Even if they did ignore the plight of the unfortunate.

    Torah learning is forbidden today, but we can learn איוב who was very well connected. But it did him not good. His fortunes changed for the better only when he davened for the welfare of his neighbors.

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    1. I think those are very good points about ישעיה

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    2. love that comment

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    3. Al azvam es torasi....

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    4. Very true, but as for Iyov, I saw a good argument that he didn't real spirituality at first, and the book is about his gradual process of achieving real spirituality.
      http://www.azure.org.il/article.php?id=20&page=all

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    5. It's downright contemptuous to organised religion 'who asked this from your hands?'

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    6. "There if anything, the נביא complains that the people had too much of a connection with the בורא עולם (and not enough of a connection with the poor, ophans and widows). Hashem found that kind of connection as overbearing, so he cast them out."

      The phrase "lip service" comes to mind to describe what you posit as a connection to Hashem.

      Does this correctly describe the connection the people had with Hashem?

      And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God demand of you? Only this: to revere the Lord your God, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. Dvarim 10:12

      Rashi : EXCEPT TO FEAR [THE LORD YOUR GOD, etc.]. -- Our Rabbis derived from this ("and now, what does God ask from you") that everything is in the hands of heaven except the fear of heaven (Berakhot 33b).


      Obviously, it does not. One of the ways this manifests is in cruelty to the poor, widows, and orphans. Confidence that Hashem would not destroy His house has nothing to do with that connection that you claim existed and everything to do with denial that such a connection is even needed.

      This Fear of God must precede even Rabbi Akiva's great clal of the Torah, that "ve'ahavta l're'acha kamocha" is its essence.

      Yes, it's difficult when your medieval mystical or Greco-Muslim interpretation of Judaism has no backing in classical sources and is completely contradicted by the plain meaning of entire books of Tanach, along with all the kinnos.

      Slifkin, דוד (as well as Dovid) says roughly the same thing as I do, but in more words. You are the one who is wrong.

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    7. Shimshon,
      I'm not sure whether you disagree or whether you're just being contentious. I don't know what Greco-Muslim is, nor am I familiar with such sources. Please let us know.
      My sources are the plain meaning of the פסוקים in ישעיה , the 7th of ירמיהו with the basic מפרשים especially the מלבים. The איוב comment was base on RYBS in an essay in Out Of the Whirlwind. And further sentiment in the Chazal שקשה עליהם טהרת כלים יותר .משפיכות דמים Review those sources before continuing your off base accusations.

      As far as יראת שמים, I refer you to שמנה פרקים8. That should resolve your Akiva dilemma. In regard to your unwarranted Greco libel, I refer you to the נציבs intro to בראשית.

      Your comment about lip service is unhelpful. The people whom The נביאים and Chazal are addressing, are not paying lip service. They are sincere and devout. They are convinced that their motivations are driven by יראת שמים. And if the נביאים and Chazal are talking, they are speaking towards eternity. Most contemporary. So tell me, who are they addressing today? You've never met these "holy" people who are ritually fastidious but are lacking ישרות when it comes to other people? I'm sure you know some examples. And you know these people don 't feel disconnected from הקב"ה.

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    8. Ephraim, perfectly put, especially that final paragraph.

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    9. Ephraim, I first responded to your comment, then Slifkin's.

      If their yirat shamayim didn't feature "kol b'y'dai shamayim chutz m'yirat shamayim" at the core, which it clearly didn't, then their alleged fear was indeed just lip service, no different than their avoda.

      Our mesora tells us that the Jews in the time of Bayis Shaini were ritually fastidious but still harbored sinas chinam in their hearts. It's no different today, for those who do at least adhere to mitzvos. This blog is chock full of such hatred, from the proprietor on down through his sycophants.

      There are plenty of such "sincere and devout" people alive today, whose sincerity is false and devotion is misplaced. They can don kippot (or not) and sport big bushy beards (or not). I don't need to know how they feel, because that is impossible for me to know. I can see from their actions or statements that this is the case. This includes the "ritually fastidious". I even said something to this effect regarding this audience here some posts back. People who are clearly far more knowledgeable than I in many ways, but who do seem to lack basic discernment and a spiritual connection to Hashem, which is further deemed a foreign mystical import to an austere rationalist ethos. They especially adopt a holier than thou stance with their recurring criticisms of others, while deflecting that critical gaze from themselves.

      Slifkin made several posts featuring my statements to this effect.

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  4. People might focus on the wrong thing, or give more weight to Yom HaShoah, but at least you won't find anyone in this country doing this on Tisha B'Av:
    https://klezcalifornia.org/events/lchaim-festival/

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    1. Thanks, went To their contact info and sent an email flabbergasted that out of all days they chose today for a festival!

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  5. "they should care about preserving the memory of the original Holocaust, the loss of the original State of Am Yisrael."

    Talmud Bavli states that 2 million Jews died in the events surrounding the destruction of the first Temple and the resulting exile. While it is impossible to confirm that number, archaeologists confirm massive destruction and significanty depopulation at that time.

    "Before the בית המקדש was destroyed there was נבואה."

    And also *after* the First Temple was destroyed. Yechezkel, Chaggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

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    1. this is dealt with extensively in the מפרשים, that some נבואה lingered but no נבואה began with those who never had it before. See for example the מפרשים on נהר כבר in the beginning of יחזקאל

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    2. Malachi lived over 130 years after the Churban.

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    3. Off the top of my head, if I recall correctly. At beginning of 2nd Bayis the Anshie Knesset Hagdolah asked of Hashem to abolish the super powerful yetzer harah of Avoda Zarah, which was overwhelming in the 1st Bayis. Since the balance of yetzer tov vs yetzer horah must be kept. They had to give up the koach of nevuah in exchange.
      If I'm remembering incorrectly please someone else step in and clarify.

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    4. That's an aggadata, obviously.

      Also, the Anshei Knesset HaGedola date, at the earliest, to Malachi's time.

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  6. If anything, the focus of the Navi is about the loss of our ethical compass- the actual destruction was mainly a symbol of that.

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  7. A Different DavidAugust 7, 2022 at 5:14 PM

    For too many years I aspired to "get something out of Tisha be'Av." Did I grow through it? Was it effective.
    I have moved away from this.
    Imagine you are visiting a disaster area. An earthquake. In front of you is sitting a crying woman. Her husband has just died. Her thirsty children pulling at her skirt. She has no shelter.
    And you stand there, and do חשבון נפש. You wonder how this experience will improve you.
    The woman looks up at you, and says: "This is not about you! Can't you just cry with me?"
    On 9 AV, maybe we should think less about ourselves, and should cry with 2000 years worth of people suffering.
    The causes and solutions can be addressed on the other 364 days of the year.

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  8. I've read איכה many times. The problem is that there is an undercurrent to איכה that is not explicit. There's very little chance that I will sway anyone, especially in this forum, to believe that what I am reading in is the actual, true meaning behind, because in this crowd of scientific, academia scholarship there is little room for things that aren't spoken out clearly. And the sources which I would bring would be discredited as they are primarily from from people who accept the זהר as a true source. So all I can say is that there is a group of people within כלל ישראל, which I subscribe to, that are taught that there is an undercurrent to all of Judaism - Tisha Bav included - that it is always about our relationship with God. As anonymous brought from the רמב"ם, and I will quote the end of it, ולא יהא כל העולם אלא לדעת את השם וכו כי מלאה כל הארץ דעה, "de'ah", referring to knowing God, which means that we are living in a world where there are other endeavors but we are looking forward to a time when it will just be about Him, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד ושמו אחד, and the sadness of Tihsa Bav is this very fact. It's a hard thing to show black on white, so if I claim that this is my מסורה, this forum will auto-assume that it is just one form of Judaism. I contend that this isn't true - this is what Judaism is all about. Those on a different side missed the memo somewhere.
    The רמב"ם with all his 'rationalist' views is possibly the biggest proponent of this idea. Many who read the רמב"ם and are בחושך יתהלך, as the רמב"ם writes in his הקדמה,
    אמנם אשר לא ראו אור כלל אפילו יום אחד אבל הם בלילה יגששו והם אשר נאמר בהם, לא ידעו ולא יבינו בחשכה יתהלכו, ונעלם מהם האמת כולו עם חוזק היראותו כמו שנאמר בהם ועתה לא ראו אור בהיר הוא בשחקים, והם המון העם אין מבוא לזֹכרם הנה בזה המאמר
    in context it is super clear that he is referring to this connection to הקב"ה that is in the realm of נבואה, which is some ability to communicate with השם as we do with a friend כביכול. There are so many sources of a level where one experiences an עומד לפני המלך in a real way (see Rema beginning of OHC). but on a way lower level than נבואה. call this 'knowledge and revelation' as the source of knowledge, but it's actually an experience of the mind, and those who never experienced this are in the dark and misconstrue many things. Such as Tisha Bav.

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    1. "It's a hard thing to show black on white" Yes, it's difficult when your medieval mystical or Greco-Muslim interpretation of Judaism has no backing in classical sources and is completely contradicted by the plain meaning of entire books of Tanach, along with all the kinnos.

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    2. O please. This is obviously a longer conversation, but are you serious that thinking that Judaism is about the relationship with God and man is like everything is just a Greco-Muslim interpretation? With no backing in classical sources? I think the Rambam for one, does a fine job with this. But you never took the time to read the Rambam. I mean really read the Rambam. He is quite clear in o so many places that our relationship with הקב"ה is just about everything.
      Let me guess: you've never experienced anything like the Rambam's "lightning" experience. You have no clue what it means to feel like you are standing in front of הקב"ה for real. It's like a explaining to a blind person what it's like to see. "You can perceive a whole room in one shot, and not only that but there are colors with shades..." If the blind person wished to deny these things, he would say that he's never heard anything of the sort and there are no explicit sources confirming that these things exist.
      This is like the Rambam's favorite thing to talk about. But you don't see it because you like to believe that only what you know exists. If you would follow the Rambam's advice, or any "mystic" 's advice, you would find a whole world which you'e never seen, and would have a very different view on the world.

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    3. Rambam, for all is great accomplishments, was indeed heavily influenced by Greco-Muslim philosophy (as the Vilna Gaon correctly observed). Classical Judaism - that of Tanach and Chazal - was much more about being a good person. And Tisha B'Av was certainly not traditionally about the "lack of connection with Hashem." Again, the books of Eicha and Yirmiyah and Yeshaya are very clear. You want to post that there is some secret underlying theme that is completely absent from the plain meaning of the pesukim. I'm sure you can understand my unwillingness to accept that.

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    4. You didn't respond to my point. You just reiterated yours. My point was that if you think that Yiddishkeit isn't about our relationship with הקב"ה you are missing some very crucial information. Seeing people don't go around describing a life of seeing; it is just a part of their life. The Rambam, and the Vilna Gaon and hundreds of other sources ar screming that this was Chazal's intent the whole etire time. Maybe there is something to learn from the experts instead of saying that "I don't see Chazal talking about it so it's the invention of later sources forcing their way into the words of Chazal". These Rishoni and Achronim weren't claiming to be making thi up, they were claiming that this is what Chazal said. You come along and arue with them that they are being influenced by al sorts of outside factors, like Greco-Muslim philosophy and you bring the Vilna Gaon in a vey different context to back yourself up, but meanwhile, the Rambam and the Vilna Gaon converge that Chazal - the whole time - meant to allude to this connection with God that you are clueless of. And since you are clueless of it, you write it off and say that it is an invention of these people who were way more learned than you, and more importantly, they had an inkling of this 6th sense of perceiving God as an entity, not like you who hasn't any experience with such concepts. That is my point.
      And in regards to Tisha Bav, yes, this is the point of Tisha Bav. Yes we are sad about the churban, yes we are sad that we aren't in power, yes we are sad about all the tragedies that have occured to our nation in the past 2000 years, but it is MORE sad that הקב"ה isn't in charge. Anyone with any connection to הקב"ה takes this as a given.
      I don't mean ח"ו that you have no connection, but I mean those that 'feel' this connection, like you 'feel' your friend next to you. This is considered a high מדריגא but my point here is that it exists and is the point of the world, the Rambam with his terminology, the מקובלים with their terminology and the בעלי מוסר with theirs. But you come as if you know better and claim that they all made it up. But maybe we should learn from them that there is more to Yiddishkeit than you think? And by extension, more to Tisha Bav than you think.

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    5. A connection to God is important. But it's not the most basic or fundamental part of Judaism, and it's certainly not what Tisha B'Av is about. Again, you can assert that this is the Secret Real Meaning that was mysteriously completely omitted by the Neviim who spoke about the Churban, but we will just have to agree to disagree about that.

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    6. I guess that's where we're holding.
      "the Secret Real Meaning that was mysteriously completely omitted by the Neviim" it's not so secret, it's obvious (in my wordldview).
      How can we discuss this at greater length, you and I?

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    7. "A connection to God is important. But it's not the most basic or fundamental part of Judaism" really? it's not? Maybe it wasn't clear, but I don't mean personal connection. I mean God with mankind in general. Do you disagree with that?

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    8. Because you think I'm a 'mystic' and you're a 'rationalist'? And the divide is too great that we can't converge? I'll be honest, I've never seen any discussion on these points that I brought up and they are, or should be, pretty central to the discussion of Rationalism Vs. Mysticism.
      Did you ever consider that you have a strange view of 'Mysticism'?

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  9. "It's surprising to see how Tisha B'Av is ignored by secular Jews, and the ignorance of it among certain fervently religious Jews.
    Secular Jews have no interest in Tisha B'Av, which they see as a part of religious Judaism."

    This disturbed secular socialist ideolog Berl Katznelson long ago. The founder of Davar decried the phenomenon in his seminal essay "Revolution and Tradition".
    https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/opinion/350593/the-secular-socialist-zionist-who-insisted-on-mourning-on-tisha-bav/

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  10. "And you can also mourn the resultant loss of spiritual connection as a result of the events of Tisha B'Av. But Tisha B'Av itself is not primarily about that."

    "All mah avda haaretz...vyomer Hashem al azvam et torarti..."


    sounds pretty primary.



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  11. https://www.facebook.com/100002980389159/posts/pfbid0ZJAXanra68Boha4KUBXinBTEv3AGu7Hk1ZQSSGRz6cMutc8dEBk9oZ71mggZPydzl/

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  12. Our Torah has many Halachos, all of which are משפטים בל ידעום, they are all Mitzvos that apply to Yidden only, those who are part of a covenant with Hashem. (Possibly even the seven noahide mitzvos, but certainly the rest)
    All of our Mitzvos, including דרישת ציון, which is the basis of our mourning the Churban, are part of our covenant with Hashem. It is that covenant that makes Klal Yisroel special, we are the ones who do the special jobs for Him and will receive special reward for that behavior. We are commanded by Him to shake a lulav and esrog, unlike other nations. And that makes us special, only we have the ability to use a lulav and esrog to serve G-d.
    When people try and secularize the concept of Tishah Be'av and remove it from the service of Hashem, one wonders what that motivation would be. Sympathizing with a crying woman is nice, but that is not the basis of Tishah Be'av. Loss of national identity is sad, but mourning it is not the service of Hashem. We spend a day, a rather difficult one at that, performing various Mitzvos and Minhagim, wouldn't it be a good idea to understand the basis behind it? We are fulfilling the דרישת ציון, that those who are part of Hashem's covenant are desperate for. Those who truly understand what a life of avodas Hashem is, are doubly saddened when they remember the difference between life as it is and life as it should be. The hunger at the churban is the opposite of life as it should be. There should be food for Klal Yisroel, lots of it, as much as they need to spend their lives serving Hashem.

    Moshiach will come and the world will change. Serving Hashem will be the true purpose of mankind. When the non-Jewish scientist who cures cancer sees a Yid walking down the street, he will make space for him. Because the Yid wears Tzitzis, and the non-Jewish scientist will see that as a more important feat than curing cancer, inventing sliced bread, or being president of a country. Nothing will be as important as a Mitzvah, and no Mitzvah will be as important as a word of Torah. And the world will recognize this, and be run accordingly.

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    1. "Sympathizing with a crying woman is nice, but that is not the basis of Tishah Be'av."

      Yeshaya begs to differ:
      שָׂרַיִךְ סוֹרְרִים וְחַבְרֵי גַּנָּבִים כֻּלּוֹ אֹהֵב שֹׁחַד וְרֹדֵף שַׁלְמֹנִים יָתוֹם לֹא יִשְׁפֹּטוּ וְרִיב אַלְמָנָה לֹא־יָבוֹא אֲלֵיהֶם׃ לָכֵן נְאֻם הָאָדוֹן יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת אֲבִיר יִשְׂרָאֵל הוֹי אֶנָּחֵם מִצָּרַי וְאִנָּקְמָה מֵאוֹיְבָי׃

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    2. You are not being intellectually honest here.
      1. That possuk is talking about the causes of the churban, not the reason to cry. If the causes of the churban are the reason to cry, what about על עזבם את תורתי.
      2. That possuk doesn't talk about sympathizing with a crying woman. It is a rebuke to the Dayanim who did not do their jobs. They only dealt with the important and powerful, leaving the weak and defenseless without judgement. They were not supposed to sympathize with the widow. To the contrary לא תהדר פני דל בריבו. They were supposed to judge their cases.

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    3. "Sympathizing with a crying woman is nice, but that is not the basis of Tishah Be'av." So when you read the Kinnos that talk about the horrible destruction/pillaging/murder from Titus HaRasha and his ilk ... you think only of some vague spiritual disconnect (e.g. Sinas Chinam/3 Averos Chumros committed by people that came long before us -- that we thank Gd are mostly not in violation of) and not the actual people who perished or were beaten? I think you are confusing Tisha B'av & Yom Kippur.

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  13. As always, I appreciated this thoughtful blog. However, for once I disagree that we cannot say that Tisha B'Av does not commemorate the loss of spiritual connection to G-d. I might have agreed with Rav Slifkin until this Tisha B' Av, but then I heard this compelling shiur from Rav JJ Shachter, who makes the argument that this is indeed a major aspect of the Tzom. Definitely worth listening to at
    https://www.mizrachi.tv/introduction-to-kinot-2/

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  14. Here's someone who disagrees, and feels it's about our connection to Hashem.

    https://player.vimeo.com/video/736604766?h=402d1ea822

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  15. Friendly SpelllcheckerAugust 8, 2022 at 12:56 AM

    "and there is the hope that nashuva." -- Was that a typo?

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    1. No. Nashuva translates as "we will return". It makes sense to me.

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  16. Can't put a finger on it but I'm just not liking this post. I kinda feel the sentiment of the quoted comment. Isn't the nationalism and servitude to God one and the same? Don't the kinnos and eicha bemoan the loss of the avodah? Granted the times have changed but I think the commenter was right

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  17. מלכה ושריה בגוים אין תורה גם נביאיה לא מצאו חזון מיהוה
    Eichah does, in fact, discuss the loss of nevuah. I would also recommend a thorough reading of the 3rd chapter of Eichah before pontificating on what the point is and is not.

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