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    The actual and virtual Tishah B’Av

    Historical events punctuate Jewish history. Our calendar marks them with a kaleidoscope of joys and laments. On two levels – the actual and the virtual.

    Rembrandt’s Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, c. 1630

    The actual Pesach is a re-creation of life in Egypt and the Exodus; the virtual Pesach celebrates an idea – the human right to freedom.

    The actual Shavu’ot is a reconstruction of a people gathering at the foot of a mountain amidst thunder and lightning with the leader, Moses, then ascending to receive the detail of the Divine message; the virtual Shavu’ot heralds an ideal – a nation living by a moral law.

    The ideals and values of Judaism are enshrined in thousands of great works of literature and law, but above all in the days and dates of the calendar. Samson Raphael Hirsch wisely said, “The catechism of the Jew consists of his calendar”.

    Does Tishah B’Av fit into this pattern?

    Its message, transcending the actual events of the destruction, is that a people can move through trauma towards triumph, but must not be deluded into thinking that its Utopia has come every time there is a pseudo-messianic movement that promises light but so often sinks into darkness.

    A people must have a messianic belief but must wait until the evidence of its Messiah is overwhelming.

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