Alas! Lonely Lies the City (Lamentations 1 : 1 )
Virtual Tisha b’Av Study Session on National and Personal Loneliness
With the participation of
The President of the State of Israel
Mr. Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin
Opening remarks – President Rivlin
Adina Bar Shalom, Israel Prize Laureate, Founder of the first Haredi college in Israel
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism in North America
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, former CEO of the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly of North America
Yochi Brandes, Author
Avinoam Bar-Yosef, President of the Jewish People Policy Institute
Closing Remarks: Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel
Moderator: Shmuel Rosner, Jewish People Policy Institute
The event is co-hosted by the Jewish People Policy Institute
and will be live broadcasted on the President’s Residence website and the President’s Facebook page.
Tuesday, July 28, 2020, at 17:00 (Israel time)
Simultaneous English/Hebrew translation will be provided
Click here to download selected readings for the event
Speech of President Reuven Rivlin
Tisha B’Av rings in the ears of the Jewish people as a time of calamity. For a night and day of social and national soul-searching. We have chosen to dedicate this year’s study to the subject of “national loneliness, personal loneliness,” “How lonely it is.” Indeed, this is a time when loneliness seems to be overflowing. The difficulties of earning a living, caring for the family, the home, social distancing, which for some of us has also become real isolation, the uncertainty about the formal and informal educational frameworks of our children this summer and the school year to come, all make us feel more alone than ever.
The much-loved Israeli summer vacation has become a bubbling pressure cooker. In the song “Twilight”, Jonathan Geffen wrote, and I quote, “From loneliness people become difficult.” Dear friends, this crisis is indeed making us lonely and difficult. We lost confidence. Behind the masks that hide our faces, they have become suspicious. We suspect each other. Suspicious decision makers. In protesters in the streets. In aid providers. Tell me which group you belong to and I will tell you what you are guilty of. Tell me which side of the political map you belong to and I’ll tell you what you are suspicious of. Instead of aid programs, studies, data, there is only a thick filter of a position, of one camp or another, through which everything passes and there is no one but him. From the loneliness of people becoming hard, wrote Jonathan Geffen, hard and desperate, my dear, a time of despair is the great hour of hatred. And even if it seems to us that hatred is not free hatred, ladies and gentlemen, it is incumbent upon us, as in every generation, to make sure that it does not bring us even close to the slightest imaginary threat of home destruction.
Ladies and gentlemen, on the Shabbat after Tisha B’Av, at the end of the parsha “Vachtanan”, we read the opening haftarah with the words “Nechmo Nachmo Ami”. How gentle, how loving, how optimistic these three words are. Comfort comfort me. How I love to hear that sound of comfort, and to think of my own, personal comfort. Haftarah Nachmo closes the short and painful chapter of Telta Dforanota – the three Haftarot we read in the weeks between 17 Tammuz and Tisha B’Av. And opens the chapter seven of the seven haftarahs that are recited from Tisha B’Av to Rosh Hashanah. With the Rivlin family here in Jerusalem, the haftarahs were an important thing, they would not just do a bar mitzvah for the child, they would wait to do a bar mitzvah on a special Shabbat, Shabbat ‘Nachmo’, Shabbat ‘Shuva’, Shabbat ‘Shira’. If the three haftarahs of calamity deal with the destruction of the house, then the seven haftarahs of consolation draw us a horizon of consolation, a vision of redemption. Thus, Tisha B’Av serves as a watershed. Between destruction and redemption. Between mourning, pain and despair to comfort.
Friends, this difficult time must be the great hour of the State of Israel. The great hour of Israeli democracy. This may be the great hour of this people who have built with their own hands a strong and developed country, based on concern and commitment to the girls and boys of all groups, and all ages. This could be the great hour of this society, which has always known how to build from crises and overcome them. This could be the great hour of the Israeli welfare state, in which we have recently learned how important the role of social facts is. How significant is the contribution of the nurses within it. This could be the great hour of Israeli creativity. Its wide and excellent body of research is a source of inspiration for many countries. There is so much good done out there, by charities and businesses and by private citizens, who open their eyes and reach out – to their acquaintances, and to strangers they have never met. Just a few days ago, we opened the Corona Squadron at the President’s House. Many cries of distress came and went, and we take them all seriously, in all of them we try to help.
And I tell you in our handling of these calls we repeatedly meet the public bureaucracy at its best. The public servants who just want to help, who harness all their forces to serve the public. From within and outside the government and the Knesset. Inside and outside the systems. Restore trust. Get through this crisis, together. only together.
And now I want to reach out to our loved one in the Diaspora. Our destiny is shared. Our mission is shared. We know how difficult it is to deal with your crisis, and we send you a embracing, loving and supportive brotherly hand. This event was founded to teach us that we can, Jews from different streams and classes, study together, draw conclusions, and draw lessons. Even from this crisis we can benefit. Comfort, comfort, my people. ”
Speech of Avinoam Bar-Yosef, President of JPPI
Honorable President Reuven Rivlin, Honorable head of the Jewish Agency Isaac “Bougie” Herzog and all of these wonderful people. It’s hard to follow up after so many important people. But I will say something. And it is very important, at that. This pandemic that is attacking the human has started a new world order and it’s changed our behaviors but it will not change the human character. Quarantine forces isolation, not loneliness.
An example of this is this event, which you Mr. President, initiated to mark Tisha b’Av. The coming together of the tribes of Israel, between the various streams of Judaism, and between the Jews of the diaspora and Jews of Israel. Am Yisrael learns to find opportunity in all threats. Precisely because of the isolation resulting from our new situation, we have the connection between all the Jews of the world today from here in Jerusalem.
Martin Luther King used to say that a true leader does not seek a consensus, but shapes it himself. This connection between the streams in Judaism is indeed a lofty goal that even if it does not produce full religious consensus, it can certainly establish tolerance and comradery. Henry Kissinger sees the leader’s mission in leading the people from where he is to where he has not been before. And I allow myself to add on the condition that it will be a better place.
You sir, working from the President’s house in the heart of Zion, “the city that sits alone with a walled heart” are realizing the Talmudic mission to create a model society, to be a light onto the world and to make the world a better place. Am Yisrael prove time and time again that they know and are able to win, with every new creation, with every successful start-up, with every invention, with every Nobel Prize that a Jew wins.
The isolation imposed on us by the corona must not be allowed to become the loneliness of the individual. Isolation breeds the inner connection in the nuclear families and these are committed to the older generation, to inspire in them hope for the day to come, where we can once again embrace.
Loneliness was and remains the burden of the leader: In an article written by Menachem Begin in 1977, on the eve of the election in which he was elected prime minister, he refers to the weight of the decision-maker: “No one calls them iron men,” “Of responsibility, who sends soldiers into battle, can not be an iron man. He thinks, reconsider whether it is allowed, and if it should be done otherwise”.
We can only hope for the fulfillment of Menachem Begin’s vision and that we will have leaders who have a friend and also a sense of morality and conscience. Leaders with a compass capable of producing consensus.
On a personal level I want to thank Shmuel Rosner who has helped organize these meetings at the President’s house. Next year the Jewish People Policy Institute will be represented by a new President, who will be named soon and will begin working this fall upon by retiring. I have devoted almost two decades to the establishment of this body, which brings together the best planning minds in the Jewish people in Israel and around the world, in order to try and deal with the complex challenges facing us and ensure a better future for future generations.
From here, the President of Israel’s house, I would like to thank the members of the institute who managed to develop a professional language that gives expression to a whole range of opinions and beliefs in Judaism; To the members of the International Executive, headed by Ambassadors Dennis Ross, and Stuart Eisenstadt, to Bougie Herzog and through you to the Jewish Agency, which understood the need to establish an independent planning body.
A special thank you goes out to my wife and children for the support, love and partnership without which I would not have been able to advance the mission.
Mr. President, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the trust you have placed in us to be partners with you in this effort to mediate between the currents and the tribes in Judaism and I want to wish you continued success, health and longevity. Thank you!
Speech of Isaac “Bougie” Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel
Your excellency, Mr. Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin – Allow me to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your leadership and your personal and national compass.
This abode, in the spirit of Your Excellency the President, continues to be an island of tranquility amidst the stormy waves, north of the Jewish, Zionist and State King Road in these tumultuous days.
Thank you very much.
I am happy to see here leadership and important leaders of the Jewish people in all their streams, who are facing at this time the enormous challenge of our time, the corona crisis. To you, Your Excellency the President and to all my colleagues and colleagues I bring a good health blessing. To you, your families and your communities.
I would like to thank the staff of the President’s House and the staff of the Institute of Jewish People’s Policy JPPI for the important tradition of holding this conference on the eve of Tisha B’Av. I would especially like to thank our friend Avinoam Bar-Yosef, who will soon end his many years as president of the institute. Avinoam, you have led the institute to enormous achievements. You leave behind a very important legacy, which works for the unity of the Jewish people, its good and nurturing and a deep and strong connection of Israel and the Diaspora. Congratulations and success from all of us.
Dear all, every year I read the Book of Lamentations in the synagogue in my neighborhood on the evening of Tisha B’Av. The Book of Lamentations, which contains the five most difficult and painful lamentations about the destruction of the temple, is perhaps one of the most significant texts in the Bible and I have a fear that it is one of the least taught. In my opinion, every girl and boy in Israel needs to study this text and understand the depth of the disaster and take action so that it does not happen again.
The fast of Tisha B’Av evokes in us every year thoughts and reflections on the past and present of the people of Israel.
The Jewish people always knew how to stand up to an external enemies and adversity. Despite this, internally on the mosaic that joins together all parts of the Jewish people, we find ourselves time and time again in the face of baseless hatred devouring us from within.
On the ninth of Av, the first temple and the second temple were destroyed. But on this day, at this time, we do not have to navigate the pages of history to describe the terrible sights of baseless hatred.
On the evening of Tisha B’Av, the free hatred is visible to us from the streets of the entire country.
The events of the last days and weeks, with passionate expressions of hatred, group against group, call on us in a clear and sharp voice – to stop. Stop for a moment before our house is destroyed again.
The writing is already on the wall and it stands firmly in front of our eyes.
We must not stand aside. To none of us!
Yehuda Amichai wrote:
“The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.”
Ladies and Gentleman,
We come to this moment in the shadow of a global epidemic we have never seen before. Its impact on the Jewish people is enormous!
Paralyzed Jewish communities, desolate synagogues, seminaries, kindergartens and closed schools and many Jews are alone in their homes, and have no comfort from all their loved ones.
Our Jewish Agency emissaries are there trying to help. A special foundation we have established is helping communities in crisis and our sisters and brothers are trying to preserve community life with tremendous efforts, but the future in many places is shrouded in mist.
The sage’s article “All Israel guarantees each other” has been said and memorized repeatedly since the outbreak of the crisis. It is the complete opposite of the free hatred that destroyed Jerusalem. It is exactly what we need now at this imperative time in our lives.
We have no other way but to extend love, brotherhood, peace and comradery between us and accept the pain and cry of the other. Precisely as a people we must respect all the groups and streams, ethnicities and religions within us and allow debate out of mutual respect and maintaining a functioning society with basic ground rules.
Friends, in conclusion –
King David minted the language of the tongue “From my enemies you will be wise” (Book of Psalms chapter kit). Well, we need to learn something from our current enemy – the corona virus. Each and every one of us needs to wear a mask to protect ourselves and the people around us, that we will not be infected and that we will not infect others. That is, in caring for the individual we make a crucial contribution to caring for our soundings and society.
We too are at war with baseless hatred, we need to strive, each and every one, as individuals and as a group, to guard and guard against baseless hatred. In addition, we need to add and increase unbounded love even towards other and people different from us, thus making a crucial contribution to ourselves, to our surroundings, to our people and to our country in this critical and faithful time, or else we will be harmed.