Monday, August 4, 2014

An Early Morning Phone Call

It was 3:35 in the morning when I heard the ringing. As I pulled myself out of the deep sleep I had finally managed to achieve and dashed to the phone my main emotion was aggravation. I didn’t think that it might be my daughter, sleeping in the hospital next to her husband who had been wounded on the Gaza front two days earlier. Nor did I imagine it might be my son who is serving in the south. Also another son and his family who live in the line of rocket fire were not on my mind. I was certain I would discover an American relative who was confused about the time difference on the line, but I was wrong.  

“Sorry for bothering you.” I heard a strange man speaking Hebrew. I was disoriented, without my glasses, and found it difficult to focus on what he was saying but one word stuck out. The word for security and insurance are very similar in Hebrew and I was certain he said security.

“Are you, are you calling from the army?” I think my voice quavered as I spoke.

“Wrong company,” the man switched to English. Did he chuckle as he said this? “Do you have a Hyundai 120?”

“I don’t know.” My daughter-in-law’s car was parked out front. Was it a Hyundai 120? I wasn’t going to check it out.  I was trying to keep my irritation under control but he had scared me and no one likes being scared.

“You don’t know?” He sounded incredulous.

“I don’t know,” I said forcefully, “and I don’t care.” I slammed down the receiver. It took ten minutes for my pulse to return to normal. And it took a lot longer for me to finally fall back asleep.

In the morning I learned that my daughter’s battery had run down setting off the car alarm. She didn’t answer her cell phone in the hospital and our house phone was next on the list. Perhaps I overreacted but given the atmosphere we are living in with the war three weeks old I think it was understandable. I know the man on the phone was just doing his job as he was supposed to but I do think he could have been a bit more sensitive to the fact he'd scared me half to death.

Life in Israel is tense now but in general people seem to be more caring to one another.  This man was an exception. As we draw closer and closer to the Ninth of Av, the day on which we mourn the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples, there is a feeling that we’re all in this together. Along with the unity, though, there is anxiety. How many more will we bury? When will we have true peace? Why does the world hate us so much? These questions are so appropriate for this time of the year, the time when we remember the destruction of our Holy Temples.     

Our period of mourning began with the fast on the 17th of Tammuz, July 15th this year, as we discontinued listening to live music, refrained from shaving and haircuts, wore no new garments, didn’t eat any new fruits, and held no weddings. On the first of Av our mourning intensified. We stopped eating meat and drinking wine, didn’t swim for pleasure, wore no freshly laundered clothing, and observed various aspects of bereavement. Our sorrow will reach its zenith on the Ninth of Av. Not only will we fast, we’ll sit on the ground, recite mournful dirges, and refrain from any time-consuming activities that will take our mind of the meaning of the day. In the afternoon, though, our signs of sorrow will decrease slightly. We’ll move off the ground and begin to do some limited, protracted projects. This leniency after midday is somewhat puzzling. Tradition teaches us that although the destruction of the Second Temple began on the ninth of Av it didn’t begin burning until after noon. Why would our mourning lessen at the same time the Temple was ablaze?
Mourners at the Kotel pre-1948

Rabbi Wagensberg gives a beautiful answer to this question. At the same time the Temple was burning the Jewish people finally understood their folly and began their repentance. Once the repentance began redemption was in sight. It may be taking over two thousand years but it is there waiting for us.

Every Jewish soul is like a Temple. We’re burning our Temples day after day. As I write these words there are traffic jams all over the country from all of the funerals of our soldiers. Let’s understand our follies and do true repentance. Let’s finally bring the redemption we have been waiting for so long.   


Batya said...

Beautiful post and I think you handled that phone call very well.

Ester said...

Not bad for the wee hours of the am?