Clergy’s Corner

Read Rabbi Barras’ Monthly Reflections — “Rav Bar Oz

In this space each month, we feature the writings of one of the members of our Beth Am Clergy. This month we invite Rabbi Jaime K. Aklepi to share some thoughts with you. You may contact her at with any comments.

What are your plans for the summer?

As June approaches we may ask this question, be asked this question and spend time formulating our answer — in other words making our summer plans. I have friends who planned this time down to the moment. When their children were young and went to summer camp, my friends wasted no time. They would take the kids to the airport to meet the plane for camp, and as soon as that plane left the ground they would make their way to their own flight to some distant location. Summertime provides us with opportunities to rest, regroup, explore, imagine and, of course, the annual goal to clean out closets. Summer can be both the lazy days of summer and the time in which we might frantically try to catch up.

The Jewish calendar has a different focus. In the middle of summer we have a period of mourning. We commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem that occurred on the 9th of Av, known as Tisha B’Av. Each Temple had stood for over 400 years and was the center of Jewish life and ritual. Their destructions led to exile. The dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the Roman Empire following the Second Temple’s destruction and decimation of Jerusalem in 70 CE, was not to be remedied until the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Other calamities that have befallen our people on that very same day were the expulsion from England in 1290, the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, as well as the beginning of mass deportations of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto on July 22, 1942. Tisha B’Av is a fast day similar to the practices of Yom Kippur where one does not bathe, wear leather shoes or engage in intimacy. One sits on the floor or on low stools during the service for Tisha B’Av – more physical practices of mourning.

Join us for our annual Community Tisha B'Av Service on Saturday, July 21st at 7:00 pm at Temple Judea in Coral Gables.

On Tisha B’Av we read the Scroll of Lamentation, Eicha, in a dark and somber melody. The scroll is a description of the pain and anguish suffered at the destruction of Jerusalem. It is a description of people being alienated from their God, from their personal mission in life, from their own self. The text speaks of Jerusalem in ancient times, and speaks to humanity in all times.

Alas (How could it be), how solitary does the city sit that was so full of people.
How is she become as a widow.
She that was great among the nations, and princess among the province,
How is she become a tributary. (1:1)
Pour out your tears, my eyes; for these things do I weep:
Because the comforter is far from me,
He who should relieve my soul. (1:16)
Far off from peace is now my soul removed: I forgot prosperity.
“Forsaken is my strength,“ I said,
“My hope has perished before the Lord.” (3:17-18)

God has punished the people of Israel because of their sin and they have lost their Temple, city and sovereignty. Tradition describes God as being “hidden.” And yet, like our other prophetic books, even at time of great loss, there is a possibility of redemption. Mourning is never the end for our People; we can be renewed physically and even revived spiritually.

Kept from the Lord forever is not God’s intent.
Kindness is God’s, although God will cause grief,
But many are God’s mercies.
Kindling pain is not what God desires,
Nor does God want to grieve the sons of man. (3:31-33)
Hashivenu Adonai elecha v’nashuva, chadesh yameinu k’kedem.

Turn us unto You, O Lord, and we shall be turned; Renew our days as of old. (5:21)

Eicha is translated as: How could it be? How could we be in a position of utter ruin and destruction? However, Eicha can be vocalized as Ayeka, translated as: Where are you? The same way God asked Adam where he was after he ate from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It’s the same question we can ask ourselves this summer: Where are you? Not where are you travelling, but where are you spiritually? Are you like Lamentations, Eicha suggests, alienated from your spiritual self, your “best” self?

I’ve always loved summer; a different schedule, vacation, rest. I like to travel and I like the quieter weeks at home. This summer along with visits with friends, new places to see, time with family, I’ll ask myself the question: Ayeka? Where am I spiritually? And I will take the time to bring myself closer to God and to what God expects of me.

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