Amid Horrific Murder, Tisha B’Av Is a Call for Jewish Unity
The murder of yeshiva student Dvir Sorek of Ofra, north of Jerusalem, on the Seventh of Av is a stark reminder of the danger of both the times we live in, and the challenge all Jews have been faced with since Tisha B’Av came into being as our national day of mourning. We must make caring for one another, and our security, a much higher priority.
The custom is to eat a hard-boiled egg at shiva, as the Sorek family may. The more well known custom is to place an egg on the Seder plate, and to eat an egg before Tisha B’Av. This all seems to be very strange.
On Passover, we place the egg on the Seder plate to symbolize the korban chagigah (the festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. And on Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, we remember the destruction of both the first and the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and lesser tragedies.
The Ramah, in the Shulchan Aruch, offers another, deeper connection, and links the custom of placing an egg on the Seder plate to the egg eaten before the commemoration of Tisha B’Av. The link between Passover and Tisha B’Av is that Tisha B’Av falls on the same day of the week as the first night of Passover. Since the egg is associated with mourning, it directs attention to the mourning of the Jewish people on the day of Tisha B’Av — the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av.
The symbolism of the egg on Passover is to associate the historical mourning of Jews on the ninth day of the month of Av with the celebration of freedom on the first night of Passover. However, this juxtaposition is puzzling. A joyous celebration of freedom is linked with the horrendous remembrance of pogroms, persecution, and the Exile of our people and related destruction of Tisha B’Av.
One answer is that Jews left Egypt early, at 210 years not the original 400 years that the Torah mentions. But because the Jews were about to totally assimilate and lose their identity, they were freed earlier. There was a spiritual debt of the remaining years that were “owed” as it were. This was a debt that was paid on Tisha B’Av.
But that explanation is a hard egg to swallow.
Jewish people have endured so much as a people, both the celebrations and the sorrows. As a result of centuries of living and adapting to different environments, Jews have developed as many distinct groups.
Today it is even more complicated. Due to technology, media, and the rapid intermixing of culture and tradition, many Jews celebrate their Jewishness in many different ways. We have become a big and extended family. This family however, has taken on different streams, colors, and traditions. Whether you will agree with these other streams or not, the fact remains, that they do exist, and do form a distinct part of the fabric of our Jewish people.
Another symbolism of the egg, is that it is a food item that gets harder not softer the more you cook it, symbolizing the strength of the Jewish people. But the thing that makes us stronger also makes us more intolerant, and, at times, uncaring and less welcoming of others. That is the sad state of affairs we are in as the Exile continues.
Our job on Tisha B’Av, is to hear the message of tolerance and love of fellow Jews, before pride and prejudice. Tisha B’Av offers the opportunity to soften the egg of Exile, allowing us to truly unite as one people.
The murder of 19-year old Dvir Sorek should cause those who demonize settlers to re-examine their rhetoric. Make a pledge to strive for Jewish unity and share it on social media. The time is now.
Joshua Goldstein is chairman of Herut North America’s U.S. Division; Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and is dedicated to the ideals of pre-World War Two Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Joshua was a delegate at the 36th and 37th World Zionist Congress for Herut. Herut’s website is https://herutna.org/