Parshat Devarim

FRIDAY, July 28th

I write to you after what has been a difficult week in Israel, and here at home in Sacramento. This week, we learned that the imam of the Islamic Center of Davis, an institution that many in our community have supported when they were the victims of a hate crime, gave a sermon in which he engaged in violently anti-Semitic hate speech. In Israel, a new wave of Palestinian violence and terror attacks continue, showing no signs of abating.

As we enter Shabbat this week, I am praying that when we turn on the news after Shabbat is over, there will be no new reports of terrorist attacks, that no more lives will have been claimed by violence and hate.

This Shabbat is the last Shabbat before Tish`a B’Av, referred to as Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat of Vision. It takes it’s name from the haftarah we read, the opening of the book of Yishayahu, which begins with the phrase, “Chazon Yishayahu”—Yishayahu’s vision. While the word vision might sound inspiring and positive to our ears, Yishayahu’s vision turns out to be quite harsh. What he sees is a society that ignores God and is plagued with violence, greed, and injustice. He foresees that God will not long allow such a society to stand, and that soon the cities will be laid waste and the fruit of the land consumed by strangers. However, the haftarah ends with a note of hope, promising that the destruction will not be complete, but that “Zion shall be redeemed through justice and her repentant ones through righteousness.” This is not just a matter of ending the haftarah on a happy note. Yishayahu is telling us that redemption will only come about through righteousness and justice—in short, when we build a society that deserves redemption, then we will be redeemed.

This coming Tuesday, on Tish`a B’Av, we have so much to mourn for, griefs both ancient and all too fresh. Even as we mourn, we can also contribute to the righteousness and justice that will be our redemption. The Rashba says that on fast days, one should take the money one saved by not eating and drinking, and donate that money to tzedakah.

In that spirit, KI is partnering with an organization called Fast for Feast to collect donations this Tish`a B’Av, and split them between Leket Israel (the largest anti-hunger organization in Israel) and the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services. I encourage you to visit and join me in supporting this effort; it doesn’t have to be much: $10, $18, whatever you’d ordinarily spend on food and beverages for the fast day. In this way, together we can connect our fasting and prayers to the concrete, practical work of building a more just, righteous society here and in Israel.

May Zion be rebuilt and may peace come to Jerusalem speedily and in our days.

Rabbi Garth Silberstein