The Sins of Yom Kippur and the Sins of Tisha B’Av 2187

(Sing beginning of Ashamnu) Ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu, dibarnu dofi

Tonight marks the beginning of the recitation of Selichot – prayers asking God to forgive our many sins and to allow us to do teshuvah and work towards being better people in the new year. We confess our many sins in a communal “we have sinned” format and are taught that we say all the sins, even if we didn’t do, or think we didn’t do, a particular one. By asking for forgiveness for the sins of others, along with ourselves, we gain the merit to have our own sins forgiven. We also heighten our work on reviewing our own behavior and figuring out who we have wronged and what work we need to do to make right with our fellow humans so that we can then make things right with God. Judaism does not allow the easy out of just apologizing to God. For sins or wrongs between us and another person, we need to apologize to the person that we wronged, and gain their forgiveness, or at least try three times, before we can even involve God in the process. Yom Kippur, and the weeks leading up to it, are all about forgiveness. Why? Why, other than the obvious answer that it is commanded in the Torah, on this particular day do we focus on forgiveness? Might there be a better day? On Tisha B’Av we mourn the destruction of the Second Beit HaMikdash, along with a myriad of other disasters which conveniently have all fallen on this same ill fated day on the Jewish calendar. We learn, according to the Rabbis, that the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of the sins of the Jewish people. We learn about the sin of sinat hinam – baseless hatred – and the story of Kamsa and bar Kamsa who hated each other so much that the one couldn’t allow the other to come to his party even if he paid for the whole party and was willing to cause busha – embarrassment – to assure that the offending individual left the premises. The Jewish people, under Roman siege, are divided into sects and are fighting each other when they should be fighting the Romans. Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed because we couldn’t remember to love each other and to trust God. The first Temple was also destroyed on this day, and also due to the faults of the Jewish people. So, we ask for forgiveness on Tisha B’Av, right? No, we don’t ask for forgiveness. We mourn and we promise to never forget Jerusalem and we pray for the coming of the Messiah so that the Temple will be rebuilt and we will all be close to God again – but we don’t ask for forgiveness. There is no clopping of the chest and no communal confession of sins. Sackcloth and ashes, sitting on the floor, mournful faces and a 25 hour fast – just like on Yom Kippur – are the order of the day, but not selichot. On the day that an apology to God seems to make the most sense, we don’t offer one. Instead we dwell in our sorrow and promise to value what we once took for granted if only we could have it back. “If I should forget you Jerusalem, let my right arm whither.” We read Lamentations by candlelight, horrified by the vision of destruction and despair in this most dark book of the Tanakh. We pray for God to show us that we have been forgiven and send the Messiah, but we don’t ask for forgiveness. Why? This summer while I was in Israel I was blessed to study the teachings of R. Shlomo Carlebach as told over by R. Shlomo Katz. I studied with R. Katz during the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av and the teachings we learned were R. Carlebach’s teachings about Tisha B’Av. Carlebach talks about the sins of

Nance Morris Adler

D’var 9/23/2011

The Sins of Yom Kippur and the Sins of Tisha B’Av 2187
Yom Kippur and the sins of Tisha B’Av and categorizes these sins as ones for which there is forgiveness and ones for which there cannot be forgiveness because the harm done is of a different quality. To help understand this – let us look at the sin that is, according to the rabbis, the first sin of Tisha B’Av – the treachery of the spies. God has promised Eretz Canaan to b’nei Israel. God has already helped them successfully flee from the Egyptian army and kept them safe in the Wilderness. God tells Moses that he can “send for himself” – shlach l’cha - spies into the land. Rashi explains the “for you” – l’cha - to mean if Moses thinks that it should be done, then he should do it. God is not commanding it, rather God is allowing it, if Moses thinks it is necessary. One of my sixth graders asked “If God knows everything and knew that the spies were going to come back and give a bad report, why did God let them go?” This Rashi shows that God perhaps did know this but also knew that Moses wanted to send them and God gives us free will. Moses had an option, and he chose to exercise it and he sent 12 spies, one from each tribe, to tour the land and come back with a report. Ten of these spies, a minyan (it is from these verses after all that we learn that 10 Jews make a quorum) come back and report that the land “eats its inhabitants” and that they felt like they were “grasshoppers in the eyes of the inhabitants.” They also report that it does flow with milk and honey and they bring back lovely produce from the land. But, they advise against going into the land and cause the people to panic and fall into despair. The people cry out against Moses and Aaron and God and display a lack of faith in God’s protection and promises. Joshua and Caleb try to reassure the people and remind them that God is with them and will surely bring them success in conquering the land, but the people chose to try and stone Joshua and Caleb rather than listen and return to a place of trust in God. God descends in a cloud over the Ohel Mo’ed and is none too happy with the situation. For their lack of faith and their unwillingness to listen to Joshua and Caleb, the people are punished – 40 years of wandering, no one over the age of 20 will enter the land, except our faithful duo. And, even this punishment, as awful as it is, was not God’s first choice. God wanted to destroy those who “refuse to believe in me after all the miraculous signs I have performed in their midst” and to start over with a new nation. Moses uses what is one of my favorite arguments in the Torah to convince God to reconsider – “What would the Egyptians think if they hear that you killed this people?” Nothing like the threat of bad PR to get someone to reconsider a rash action. God agrees to forgive the people, but does God really forgive? God states that “all the people who, while seeing My glory and the miraculous signs that I performed in Egypt and in the desert have tested Me these ten times and not listened to My voice – they will not see the Land that I swore to their fathers.” Doesn’t sound like forgiveness to me. It is true forgiveness for this sin that we are still seeking, along with all the other sins that distance us from God, on Tisha B’Av. So, why aren’t we asking for forgiveness? R. Carlebach teaches “I want you to know something very very deep. Sometimes you hurt somebody else’s feelings and you say “please forgive me” which is very beautiful but it’s not really so deep. You know what that means? You don’t really know what you did to the other person because you think it is like a Coca Cola deal. I gave you pain, you give me back forgiveness, it’s a business deal. Okay, it’s not a pleasant business deal, but we are exchanging things. I hurt you, you forgive me. But you know, if I hurt someone’s feelings, I am just walking up to them and kissing them, I say nothing, how can I ask for forgiveness…I don’t dare ask. That simple.”

Nance Morris Adler

D’var 9/23/2011

The Sins of Yom Kippur and the Sins of Tisha B’Av 2187
Carlebach is saying that for some wrongs, we can’t ask for forgiveness because it isn’t enough. It doesn’t work. It isn’t possible for the person to give at that point. To show the difference between the kind of wrongs for which we can ask forgiveness and those that we cannot, Carlebach turns to the sin that we usually consider to be the greatest sin of the generation in the desert – the Golden Calf. Just 40 short days after God reveals God’s self to all of B’nei Israel and clearly commands them to not build idols, they build an idol. Seems pretty serious. But yet, God punished them, forgave them and life went on. But when the spies give a bad report and B’nei Israel lose faith, God forgives but yet they don’t get to go to the promised land. The punishment isn’t immediate – but rather permanent for those who were over 20. Carlebach says “if he forgave us, why didn’t he let us in?” Carlebach says that for the Revelation of Mt. Sinai – the giving of law – you can ask forgiveness. He compares this to a servant who disobeys his king and apologizes and promises to do better. The servant is perhaps punished, but is forgiven and allowed to continue to serve as before. A king wants obedience – not love or trust. A rule was broken, an order ignored – these are technical issues, not issues of heart – and they can be forgiven and, ultimately, forgotten. The Golden Calf is just such a sin – the breaking of a commandment - and it can be forgiven and life can return to normal. By contrast, Carlebach considers the “revelation” or giving of Eretz Israel as “so deep” - a matter of faith and trust and love and fulfilling of promises – too deep for mere apologies. This is compared to a parent and child – a relationship where not only obedience is desired but even more so love and trust. The treachery of the spies and the sin of B’nei Israel in believing the 10 rather than the two, is too deep for forgiveness. We have no right to ask God to forgive us for this sin. This is compared to a child who betrays a parent and displays a lack of trust or faith in that parent’s love. The turning away from God that caused the destruction of the Temple – sinat hinam – a failure to love our fellow Jew and to trust God – is also too deep for mere apologies. By allowing the destruction of God’s dwelling place here on earth – we have, according to Carlebach, made God homeless. For 2000 years God has been homeless because of our actions – for this you can’t just say sorry. This, according to R. Carlebach, is why Tisha B’Av is a day where we “sit on the floor and we are crying “Ribbono Shel Olam, what did I do to the world, what did I do to myself?” This is all we can do on this day. Whereas, on Yom Kippur we say “Ribbono Shel Olam, I know that the Torah says I have to keep Shabbos. I didn’t keep Shabbos, forgive me.” On Tisha B’Av we dwell more on the destruction to ourselves and the pain we cause God when we turn away and we hope to be able to move a little bit closer. On Yom Kippur God is both King, forgiving those technical sins, and Father who loves us and wants to bring us close and this allows full forgiveness. On Tisha B’Av, R. Carlebach teaches that God is only our Father, who wants the best for us but expects trust and love and therefore still feels the sting of our betrayal. If we realize that God wants the Beit HaMikdash to be standing far more than we do – remember God is homeless here on earth without it – we will begin to understand how far we have to go to regain that place of closeness to God that B’nei Israel took for granted in the desert. How do we regain that closeness? What is the work of Tisha B’Av if it is not seeking forgiveness? R. Carlebach teaches that it is the practice of ahavat hinam – baseless love. By loving all Jews, and all people and practicing baseless love, we can move closer to the world being as God intended and rebuild –even if it is just within ourselves – a dwelling place for God here on Earth. By making space in each of our lives for God and the practice of ahavat hinam, we can

Nance Morris Adler

D’var 9/23/2011

The Sins of Yom Kippur and the Sins of Tisha B’Av 2187
partake in the building of our own personal Beit HaMikdash and this is both the work of Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur. L’shana Tovah u’tikateivu.

Nance Morris Adler

D’var 9/23/2011

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