Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • D'varim
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Partings & Portions


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Tisha B’Av – our "9/11" (ninth month, 11th) - is a recurring reminder of the maladies which ate away at our society & resulted in numerous catastrophes, primarily the loss of both Batei Mikdash & our exile from Israel.

I suggest that the central flaw in our spiritual system was machloket – divisions between the various segments of our nation that drove us apart from one another. We argued in the desert on the very first "Tisha B’Av" as to whether we should go forward & inhabit Israel; we fought each other in the days of both Temples.

This point is brought home in the famous story of Kamtza & Bar Kamtza in Gemara Gitin (fittingly, the very tractate that deals with the estrangement between partners!) describing an intractable feud between citizens of Jerusalem. It seems clear to me that both "Kamtza" & "Bar Kamtza" are not real names; they are pseudonyms built around the word "kametz" or "fist." The image of two Jews, raising their fists against one another, symbolizes the enmity & divisiveness that plagued us. Indeed, the root word of "machloket" is "chalek" or "chaluka," division.

What is the antidote to all this? Interestingly enough, it (like most antidotes) can be found within the disease itself. For Machloket’s root "chelek" has another meaning as well; it can mean "portion." When every person recognizes that each of us is but a "portion" of the whole, that we each have our own unique contribution to make to the collective, then we stop fighting one another. For we understand that, in reality, we are only hurting ourselves! And just as a person would not get angry at one part or another of his body & injure it, so we, too, will avoid injuring any member of our own body politic.

War is Hell, & creates in its terrible wake immense grief, suffering & depression. But our current war against Hamas has also brought our nation & our people infinitely closer to one another. The "divisions" seem to melt away as we all do our "portion" to support the soldiers, comfort the bereaved, heal the wounded. Differences between us are now seen for the pettiness they really are, & we become united through our joint struggle to overcome this latest challenge in our long march to Redemption.

Tisha B’Av is unique in that it has the dual quality of a somber fast day as well as a future mo’ed, a festive day. That day will come when we all embrace one another, which will inspire Divine acceptance of the pasuk: "Ki Chelek Hashem – Amo; the ‘portion’ of Hashem is His People."
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