A Thought for Shabbos Chazon/ Tish'a B’Av Nidche
Shock and disgust rippled across the Jewish world with news of the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacre at the opening ceremony on the night of 27 June – the same night as Tisha B’av – the 1,958th anniversary of the Jerusalem Massacre.
Disgusted? Yes, me too. Shocked? Not at all…
Who should shock me?
The IOC whose president in 1972, only days after the attack (at the official Olympics Memorial) compared the heartless spilling of innocent Jewish blood to the exclusion of Rhodesia from the games that year?
Or maybe our beloved peace partners, the Palestinian Authority, who congratulated the IOC for not allowing Israel to “exploit the Olympic Games for political purposes.” I guess the fact that PA President Mahmoud Abbas financed the murderous attack in 1972 isn’t as horrific of an exploitation of the sacred games…
No, I wasn’t shocked at all. And to be quite honest this isn’t anything new.
Rome’s destruction of Yerushalayim almost 2,000 years ago on the night that this year will mark the opening ceremony of the Olympics, was a culmination of a process in which Greece’s obsession with worship of the human body, and its erection of stadia across the Judean territory (Chanukah anyone?) played quite a significant and infamous role.
Olympics, Greeks, Romans, Palestinians, none of that shocks me anymore…
So why am I so excited that we can win a Gold?
There’s another competition going on now – across the world – including in London.
Like Steve Solomon for example, is representing Australia at the Olympics in the under 20 relay race.
A few days before Pesach this year, he came to visit my beloved cousin Rabbi Levi Wolff, senior Rabbi at the Central Synagogue in Sydney, to ask what to do about an upcoming Olympic Team qualifying race for which he needed Carbs – in short supply on Pesach.
“No rabbi, Matza doesn’t even let you run to the bathroom…never mind the field.”
But Steve stood his ground and remained faithful to his principles – and he won a Gold, for the Jewish People.
But how did he win a Gold if the games haven’t begun?
This Shabbos, the Shabbos of Tish'a B’av is traditionally referred to as the “Shabbat Chazon” – a Shabbat of Vision – ostensibly in reference to the vision of Isaiah whose prophecy foretold the consequences that would manifest in the destruction of the Temple.
A close examination of the scripture, particularly its closing statements of “Zion will be redeemed through Justice” hints to a far deeper vision not only of the impending disaster but the underlying purpose in our fate as a guide to our destiny.
A similar theme is evident in the Parsha where Moshe’s references to the failures and punishments of the Jewish people are each “coded” allowing for a transformation of the natural course of negative events into a supernatural order of positive energy.
Like when we won the Gold – too much Gold.
Moshe refers to the journey of the Jewish People through “Di Zahav” which means “excess gold.” Look through all records of their journey however and there is no such place on the map.
Rashi explains that in fact Moshe is hinting here to the sin of Golden Calf which was a result of an excess in their blessing of Gold and allowing that to become a worship of its own.
Is there a problem with sport or exercise? No way. Look at how much Maimonides writes about the importance of maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
But our body, like our gold, is given to us for a purpose, and when that purpose is lost and the means becomes an end for itself, whether it’s a golden calf in the desert or a golden torch being carried from Zeus in Olympia, then we can start running in to problems.
So this Shabbos we get a vision, a vision of Gold, beginning with the Gold of the Holy Temple that each and every one of us has the power to rebuild, and recreate.
And every decision we make, whether it’s not to eat much needed carbohydrates on Pesach, or to fast on Tisha B’av even if it’s not a Mitzvah we are used to, wins a gold medal, for ourselves and our people.
So go ahead, and take a minute to think about where you have some excess gold in your life, an abundance of blessing that could be used to fulfill a Mitzvah, whether it’s helping others less fortunate, or empowering your own fortune through studying some Torah and feeding your mind, and make sure you take the gold – and win it.
Please G-d may we see the fulfillment of the Talmudic statement that “Gold was not created for any purpose other than the Beis Hamikdosh, may our collective gold wins bring us that collective win of the Gold – for the world at large. This Tisha B’av let’s make sure we can celebrate that win for real.
Yes, we can win the Gold. And we will.
Wishing you a Gold Shabbos,
Rabbi Asher Deren