Tuesday Night Shiur with Rabbi Avidan Elkin: The celebration of the 15th of Av: Our Sages' approach to the dating process, finding one's match, priorities in making the choice, and dating "technique" ...
It is our honor and privilege to share with you insights from TSC's Rabbi Avidan Elkin on Shabbat Hazon and Tish'ah Be'Av:
"Perhaps the greatest challenge in facing adversity is not the immediate suffering or the struggles themselves, but rather the search for meaning in all of it. After all, as people we're all used to going through ups and downs, and hard times are just a natural part of the deal. The difficulty lies in trying to pick your head up above the fray and attempting to make sense of what's going on around you; not so much the "what", but the harder question to answer is the "why" or "how".
It is a sad feature of humanity that we are capable of getting used to just about anything. Things that might once have shocked or surprised us will, over time, be relegated to the normal and usual, and our ability to keep them in perspective becomes greatly diminished with the passage of time and the extended or repeated exposure to even potentially horrible things.
The media are all abuzz over the past few years with the atrocities being committed in the Middle East, and to be sure, they are unspeakable acts of inhumanity. Enslavement, captivity, torture, dismemberment, and public and brazen acts of terrorism and genocide are now the new norm in 'Iraq and Syria, and it looks like the situation is only getting worse by the day. Given the lack of a meaningful response by the rest of the so-called civilized world, nothing indicates that the terrorists will come to their own conclusions to end the madness, nor do we have reason to hope or believe that the world will be reacting any more reasonably any time soon.
As distant as it seems, given that it's happening for the most part on the other side of the globe, the phenomenon of desensitization has us firmly in our grips. Any of us who had the misfortune of being exposed to the footage and comments coming from the abortion clinic conglomerates these past weeks should by all means have been shocked out of our moral wits by the callousness and flippant attitude that the representatives of these groups have towards the killing and dismemberment of what are perfectly viable human lives, well past the limits of what might ever be considered even remotely Halakhically permissible.
Without getting into the depth and detail of Jewish Law on the matter of abortions (to be sure, practically none of what is being described as routinely done in these institutions is Halakhically reasonable or even understandable), the greatest shock is not so much that it's being done, but how cavalier the prevailing attitudes to it all have become. Having begun life myself as a clump of cells and tissues, the manner in which human fetuses' lives are ended and the brutal and gory nature of the process of "organ tissue extraction" are no better than what is going on in Syria and 'Iraq today. From a more spiritual perspective, however, the fact of the matter is that we've become accustomed to and shockingly tolerant of both.
The Islamic terrorists would have us believe that there is no value to the lives of those with whom they disagree, and they present their fanatic religious rationale as the only evidence they need in order to carry out torture, enslavement, and genocide. The medical community, on the other hand, has come up with its own definition of whose lives count and whose don't, and once that philosophical check has been signed, anything and everything goes when it comes to manipulating, destroying, extracting, selling, and benefiting from the system, not to mention the campaign of justification based on their own rules and logic.
Such, unfortunately, is human nature. The period that culminated in the destruction of the 2nd Temple in particular was rife with political warfare, civil unrest, and no small amount of baseless hatred (Sin'at Hinnam). Anyone with a basic familiarity with the history of the period can easily understand how the Temple was destroyed and the people were exiled. What is much harder to comprehend is how the Nation arrived at these lows, and how they successfully ignored every warning sign and every checkpoint on their way to this disaster.
If one didn't agree with another's philosophy or political beliefs, the disagreement eventually degenerated into hatred, the hatred into slander, the slander into group rivalries, and the group rivalries into justifications for murder and treachery. Yirmiyah the Prophet compiled the Book of Lamentations (Eikhah) on this very topic, and opened the five-chapter book with the word Eikhah, literally "how",. How is it possible that the Nation that was once a beacon of light unto the nations has now become such a terribly immoral group full of hatred, ignorance, and antipathy? How did we not pull up the handbrakes at any one of hundreds of warning sign or prophetic admonitions that we had received along the way? How does such a violent transition become possible in such a relatively short period of time?
The answer lies in the secret of sensitivity. Sensitivity to one's peers, family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances is the most crucial building block to spiritual growth. The problem with sensitivity is that it needs to be nurtured, it needs to be refined, and it needs to constantly be evaluated in order not to be lost. Everyone is sensitive to certain things, just normally not to those things that are the most spiritually important or the most socially productive. Learning to maintain your sensitivity in the face of inundation with negative news, horrible stories, and worse images is an incredible challenge. It actually requires - ironically - the development of a thick skin, a desensitization, if you will, to repetitive and habitual nature of crime, horror, terror, and atrocity.
We see that the rest of the world couldn't possibly care less about the threats that face us as a Nation; not today, not ever before (save for a brief period of forced guilt following the War). Spiritually speaking, it is a loud and clear message to us that there is something wrong first and foremost with our own sensitivities and sensibilities that must be permeating the Creation. Hashem is sending us a message through the same vessel that we have broken, and is calling upon us to wake up and fix it before even worse human atrocities are made possible by humanity's collective callousness and indifference.
Tish'ah Be'av is the time for this renewal. We must soften our sensitivity and refresh the sense of outrage that we ought to be experiencing at every human atrocity and every act of terror. If our indifference is what hastened the decline of the Jewish Nation and precipitated the destruction of Beit Hamiqdash, then surely the main missing ingredient in its reconstruction and in the rebuilding of human and humane values is the rebirth of sensitivity, kindness, compassion, and resolve to fight all of the attitudes that are antithetical to them with all of our might.
Wishing everyone a meaningful fast day of reflection, introspection, and renewed sensitivity to each other,