Jewish Journal


July 12, 2013

Tisha B’Av and Restoration of the Norm



By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

I am sitting here, at 2:58 a.m., and thinking about what I am going to blog about. It is a weekly exercise for me; I have ideas during the week and then they go out of my head. I ask my wife, Harriet Rossetto, for an idea and she offers suggestions, some of which I take. Today, however, I am thinking about disparate ideas and wonder why these different ideas come into my head, what is wrong or right with the way I process, see and understand the world?

This is a very deep and troubling question for me. I am constantly “on the outs” with most conventional thinking and thinkers. I am usually laughed at, ignored or vilified for my bringing together of different ideas and tying them together to prove a point (maybe it is my point, maybe it is God’s point). As I am sitting here, now at 4:46am, I realize that my “way” of thinking isn’t mine at all. It is a way that I have learned and a way that God intended.

This is brought home to me by a blog I read this week by Professor Moshe Benowitz, one of my teachers at the Schechter Institutes in Israel. Moshe writes about how we are supposed to be glad on the 9th day of Av, when the land of Israel and the City of Jerusalem are restored to the Jewish People. What a concept!! He goes on to prove his point with citations and commentary, which is, in my opinion, brilliant. Moshe defines Redemption in a beautiful way: Redemption is the restoration of the norm.

In seeing Redemption through this lens, I am able to celebrate the 9th of Av as a day of “joy and gladness happy occasions” as the Prophet Zechariah teaches us. I can celebrate, not just my sober birthday as a time of redemption, rather, my natal birthday, my anniversary, truly every day that I cause “restoration of the norm.” I think that this is why I never think that what I have accomplished is “that great” while wanting to be noticed.☺

As I am writing this, I realize that Tisha B’Av is not about destruction any more; it is about restoration and creation. I realize that my way of putting things together is my unique addition and ingredient towards restoring the Sovereignty of God in this world.

Each of us has a unique way of thinking and putting things together. We have to stop “going along with everyone else” and start to restore the Norm of God’s Sovereignty, the Norm of caring for the poor, the widow, the stranger and the orphan. We have to restore the Norm of cooperation and decency in Washington DC, Los Angeles, CA., and all points in between. We have to celebrate the Norm of Israel being a place of refuge for Jews and treat the stranger well. We have to make these celebrations happen, in our time, in our place!

We can do this, we must do this, please join me and my teacher Moshe Benowitz in celebrating Tisha B’Av as a day of restoration. The work is begun, it is not yet finished. We don’t have to finish it and, as our Sages teach, we are not allowed to invalidate the work. Rabbi Hillel said it best, “If not Now, When?”

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