Gaza, Tisha B’Av, measure-for-measure

Tuvia Brodie,

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לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Tuvia Brodie
Tuvia Brodie has a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh under the name Philip Brodie. He has worked for the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College and American Express. He and his wife made aliyah in 2010. All of his children have followed. He believes in Israel's right to exist. He believes that the words of Tanach (the Jewish Bible) are meant for us. His blog address is http://tuviainil.blogspot.com He usually publishes 3-4 times a week on his blog and 1-3 times at Arutz Sheva. Please check the blog regularly for new posts.

(a version of this essay was originally published August 5, 2014 at http://tuviainil.blogspot.com)

Yesterday was Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month called, Av. It was a day of national mourning. It was a fast day.

Regarding Tisha B’Av, our Talmud (Taanit, 26b) tells us that five national Jewish tragedies occurred in ancient times on this day. This is the day leaders of the Jewish people returned from a reconnaissance mission just as the Jewish people were about to enter the land of Israel for the first time, some 3,300 years ago. It was on the ninth of Av that these men persuaded the Jewish people that the land could not be conquered. As a consequence of that failure to trust G-d’s Promise, no male (except two) between the ages of 20 -60 was allowed to enter the land. G-d decreed that they would die in the desert.

On this day, both of our ancient Temples were destroyed. They were destroyed some 630+ years apart.

On this day, 52 years after the second Temple had been destroyed (in 70 CE), the Romans ploughed under the Temple Mount.

On this day, 65 years after the second Temple had been destroyed, Roman soldiers massacred all the inhabitants of the Jewish city Beitar.

 Since then, the ninth of Av—and the three weeks leading up to it—have been marked with tragedy for the Jewish people—expulsions, murders, pogroms, etc. Even today, our current ninth of Av began with a threat: just minutes before a scheduled cease-fire was set to begin between Hamas and Israel, Hamas fired a salvo of rockets into Israel. In our city, two air raid sirens sounded, one after the other. We had to drop everything to go to our bomb shelter.

We’re lucky. We have a bomb shelter. We also have a full sixty seconds to get there, not the fifteen seconds some have.

Later in the day, two friends called to tell us, separately, that a local police officer had just been stabbed by an Arab.

Nevertheless, as dangerous as all that sounds, we don’t feel any danger. We live on holy land. That’s what we feel: the holiness of the place.

Recently, we saw what it meant to live on holy land. There’s a video-tape making the rounds on the internet. It showed a recent interview on Al Jazeera English TV. The Israeli interviewed was Yishai Fleisher, a known Israel advocate who lives in the Jerusalem area. One of his comments captured how some of us feel about Israel. He said (I paraphrase), as every Muslim knows (he was talking to a Muslim audience), G-d gave Israel to the Jews. It says so in the Quran. G-d protects the Jewish people. That’s why Gazan rockets haven’t hit anything.

It’s true. G-d protects us. If you watch TV, you have already seen one aspect of that protection—the destruction of Gaza.

That destruction doesn’t just come from the Israeli army. It has another source. That source is a special portion from Tanach we read on Tisha B'Av morning—from the prophet Yirmiyahu (8:13- 9:23).

G-d punishes measure-for-measure, which means that you can sense the punishment of Gaza in that special portion. In that reading, the prophet had warned Israel not to sin. Israel didn’t listen. G-d punished Israel. The prophet describes the results of that punishment.

Hamas is being punished in the same way we had been punished.  Here is an ‘updated paraphrase’ of the words of Yirmiyahu, as it applies to Gaza:

Hamas curses Israel—and now it is itself cursed. The destruction Hamas has sought for Israel has become Gaza’s destruction.

Hamas wishes to lead Jewish children to slaughter; instead, it makes its own children human shields—and leads them to slaughter.

Hamas has led Gaza to hate the G-d of Israel. For that, it sins against G-d. As a result, the land Gazans walk upon trembles from the impact of Israel’s answer to Gazan rocket attacks.

Hamas has taught Gazans to want to devour Israel. Their own homes are devoured instead.

Gaza has become an assembly of treacherous men. They bend their tongues to falsehoods. They proceed from evil to evil. They deceive everyone. They have created a habitat of deceit. They curse Israel and the G-d of Israel.

“Therefore, thus says the Lord of Hosts. I will smelt them…Shall I not punish them for these things?” (The Koren Kinot, The Lookstein Edition, Koren Publications, Jerusalem, 2010, p, 186).

These are the words of the prophet. The other words above come, to a large extent, from the same text. But today, they do not apply to Israel. They apply to Gaza.

Our own past punishments serve a purpose. They warn others. Our G-d punishes measure-for-measure. What you would visit upon us will be visited upon you.

That’s what you see in Gaza on your TV: measure-for-measure.  What you see is certainly horrific. But then, that’s what measure-for-measure looks like when you deal with Hamas.