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Tisha B'Av Presentation - President's Message 19/08

18/08/16 22:08:06

Aug18

Last Saturday night I watched the Tisha b’Av presentation at our synagogue of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, the same program that was shown this year (2016 or 5776 in the Jewish calendar) all over the world.  It was a powerful collection of talks by leading rabbis on the theme of “opening the door,” how to defeat loshon hora and sinus chinum (baseless or unexplained hatred).  I want to share some of the thoughts of a few of the presenters.

HaRav Shmuel Kamenitsky, Rosh Yeshiva of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, focused on what can we do to bring klal Yisroel together.  Something that you hate, you should not do to your friend:  be careful not to hurt someone else, try to be friends, show dignity, always think about others, what you can do for others.  If we behave this way, then the Moshiach will come.

Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman is the chief rabbi of Migdal HaEmek in Israel.  He received the Ahavas Yisroel award in 1983 and the Israel Prize in 2004 and is regarded as a great humanitarian.  He says that the key to the Torah is to love your brother as you love yourself.  For God the whole of the Jewish people are his children.  You do not need to do big things but you do need to care.  Love of Am Yisroel involves honouring and caring about your brother and every Jew is your brother.

Rabbi Warren Goldstein is the Chief Rabbi of South Africa and the creator of the Shabbat Project.  He examines the dispute between Hillel and Shammai when challenged to “teach the Torah on one leg” – whereas Shammai drove off the person, Hillel said that he could do it:  “what is hateful to you do not do to your friend; this is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary.”  Commentators have said that the real issue is whether the Torah can really be distilled.  Rabbi Goldstein cites three different great rabbis to help understand Hillel’s approach.  Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe (1914-2005) sees the essence of Torah as olam hayedidos (world of loving friendship), the love between us and our fellow Jews and between us and God; hatred destroys this world of love.  How do we build the olam hayedidos? – by learning Torah.  Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1875-1865) helps explain what the mitzvah of love means:  show acts of love for your friend like you would like it done for you, with sincerity, respect, living in peace, feeling their pain, greeting with warmth, generous, not to be haughty, and not to speak negatively about them.  Rabbi Goldstein draws on Rabbi Shimon Shkop (1860-1939) to find a way to reconcile two seemingly opposing requirements:  altruism and idealism on the one hand and love of self on the other.  The key is to expand the definition of “self” from one’s own body and soul to the nuclear family and then broader family and community to the Jewish people and, in the end, all of humanity.  He says that you can buy friendship by making space in your sense of self and this change in perspective can transform and uplift everything.

Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro spoke about Machsom L’fi, a program to commit to positive speech only over the Shabbos period.  Rabbi Y Y Jacobson spoke very movingly about the power of speech and responding to one another to be a force for great good or for destructive outcomes.

The focus on love and caring about others and on using speech for good is a powerful and uplifting message for all of us.  You may wish to get more inspiration by watching the DVD – ask Rabbi Shmuly Kleiner.

Mon, 10 December 2018 2 Teves 5779

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