Posts Tagged '10th of Tevet'

The End if Near- I Hope

Recently I saw this cartoon that seems to speaks to this moment of the resurgence of Covid. It is so spot on:

Seeing this cartoon reminded of the lyrics from Closing Time by Semisonic, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

I was thinking of this all this week when reading parshat VaYechi, this week’s Torah portion, and the end of the book of Genesis. It seems to be the end of all of the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs and the tying up of all the loss ends.  Yaakov gives all of descendants their blessings, he will give instructions for his death. With Yaakov’s death we are at end the our story being about a family. Next week we will start the story as a nation in Egypt. Here is the end of the family narrative and with that we begin the story of us a people. Is this a moment of happiness or sadness?

This reminds me of a great midrash:

King Solomon has said: The day of one’s death is better than that of his birth. When a human being is born all rejoice, and when he dies all weep. But it should not be so. Rather, at one’s birth no one has yet cause to rejoice; for no one knows to what future the babe is born, what will be the development of his intellect or of his soul, and by what works he will stand; whether he will be a righteous person or a wicked person, whether they will be good or evil; whether good or evil will befall them. But when they die, then all ought to rejoice if they have departed leaving a good name, and has gone out of this world in peace.

This may be likened, in a parable, to two ships that set out to sail upon the great ocean. One of them was going forth from the harbor, and one of them was coming into the harbor. And every one was cheering the ship that set sail from the harbor, and rejoicing, and giving it a joyous send-off. But over the ship that came into the harbor no one was rejoicing.

There was a wise man there who said: “I see a reason for the very opposite conduct to yours. You ought not to rejoice with the ship that is going out of the harbor, for no one knows what will be her fate; how many days she will have to spend on the voyage, and what storms and tempests she will encounter. But as to the ship that has arrived safely in port, all should rejoice with her, for she has returned in peace.”

Midrash Koheleth 7

I was thinking about this idea this past week during Asarah B’Tevet, the 10th of Tevet. This fast day commemorated when Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem (588 BCE). 18 months later, on the 17th of Tammuz his troops broke through the city walls. The siege ended with the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the end of the first Kingdoms and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon.

Asarah B’Tevet is thus considered to be the beginning of the end of the Jewish world as it was known during the First Temple period. This started the Second Temple period. When that came to an end on the 9th of Av we began our rabbinic diasporic reality. Is the end of an era good or bad? Like the wise man in the midrash I want to be an optimist and say that it is a good thing. We call all wish of the end of our current era/situation and dream about what will come next.

Besieged: Choice, SCOTUS, and Jerusalem

Recently I have been reading about the Supreme Courts decision to let the Texas law SB8 stand and their pending decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case in Mississippi. On the second the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote, “For many, the barriers will simply be too high, and they will be forced to endure the substantial risks of continued pregnancy and childbirth.” The implications for women’s health are scary to me. I stand by any religion’s claim that this it is wrong to end a potential life. The Torah takes life and potential life very seriously, even if not the same as each other. And because this is a religious matter I do not believe that the state has a role here. This issue is only compounded by class and access to resources. Only wealthier people have the funds to get out of Texas or Mississippi to terminate those unwanted pregnancies. This newest push to limit women’s access to health care seems like an assault of women’s agency and choice over their own bodies.

It is painful to see laws, mostly written by men, about women’s bodies, lack empathy or understanding of the personal, religious, or public health issues of women. How is a women who believes it is her religious right to make decisions about her own body supposed to interpret this moment? Why is the state in the business of making rules for other people’s bodies? It might seem as the though the womb is being besieged.

Amazon.com: Don't Tread On Me Uterus Graphic T-shirt : Clothing, Shoes &  Jewelry

Regarding the Supreme Courts most recent decision to let the Texas law stand Marc Hearron, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights is quoted to have said:

While SB8 is about abortion, this private enforcement scheme implicates every other constitutional right, If a state can prohibit the exercise of any constitutional right that’s disfavored in that state and get around federal court review by allowing private citizens to sue someone for exercising that constitutional right, then it’s hard to say where this scheme ends. Today’s decision is a marker that says every constitutional right is now at risk.

Texas Tribune 12/10/21

Be it that you agree with Roe v. Wade or not, pushing against this long standing precedent opens a Pandora’s box. This has the potential of allowing the states the discretion to see different people differently under the law. Will we strive to treat everyone fairly, equitably, or justly?

I was thinking about all of this today as Asarah B’Tevet, the 10th of Tevet. This fast day commemorates when Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem (588 BCE). 18 months later, on the 17th of Tammuz his troops broke through the city walls. The siege ended with the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the end of the first Kingdoms and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon. The Tenth of Tevet is thus considered to be the beginning of the end of the Jewish world as it was known during the First Temple period.

As we know from sources such as Eicha (the Book of Lamentations), this siege was brutal, depriving the residents of Jerusalem of basic necessities and forcing them into horrific situations. Asara B’Tevet is significant because it marks the onset of a period of tremendous suffering for the Jewish people.  Jerusalem was the center of our people. In diaspora our yearning for Jerusalem became a bedrock of Jewish identity. I was not just a direction to pray it became our national orientation. It came to represent our national agency and autonomy.

siege of jerusalem | The Deadliest Blogger: Military History Page

Today on Asara B’Tevet and seeing where the court is headed it is hard not feeling besieged. Is this the beginning of the end?

As the story goes, in 1787 as the delegates to the Constitutional Convention are just leaving Independence Hall, a crowd had gathered on the steps there in Philadelphia. They had just decided on the general structure for the new United States. The crowd was eager to hear the news. An anxious women, wearing a shawl, approached Benjamin Franklin and asked him, “well, Doctor, what do we have, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied sagely, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

It is moments like this, when we feel besieged, that we have to ask, will we keep it?

Framing the Narrative: Lakoff and the 10th of Tevet

As of late I have been taken with George Lakoff’s writing. Recently I read his The Political Mind. There he discusses the nexus between brain science, linguistics, and politics. There he writes:

One of the things cognitive science teaches us is that when people define their very identity by a worldview, or a narrative, or a mode of thought, they are unlikely to change-for the simple reason that it is physically part of their brain, and so many other aspects of their brain structure would also have to change; that change is highly unlikely. ( The Political Mind p.45)

Or simply put, when people get set in their thought patterns they are unlikely to change them. In this way the frame of the debate is the debate.

I was thinking about this today Asarah B’Tevet, the 10th of Tevet which commemorates when Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem (588 BCE). 18 months later, on the 17th of Tammuz his troops broke through the city walls. The siege ended with the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the end of the first Kingdoms and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon. The Tenth of Tevet is thus considered to be the beginning of the end of the Jewish world as it was known during the First Temple period.

While anything that points to Tisha B’Av gets us thinking about one of my favorite topics being camp, I actually am much more interested in the ideas around what it means to be besieged. Seeing that the conclusion of this story is the end of Jewish sovereignty on Tisha B’Av, what is the significance to of starting with our people being pent-up, confined, and the subject of other people’s aggression. The end of our autonomy started with shutting us in and limiting our mobility. This day marks the shift in narrative from us writing our own story to us being the subjects on other empires’ stories.

To bring us back to George Lakoff, “Unless you frame yourself, others will frame you — the media, your enemies, your competitors, your well-meaning friends.” (How to Frame Yourself: A Framing Memo for Occupy Wall Street by George Lakoff, http://www.huffingtonpost.com. October 19, 2011.) Today Asarah B’Tevet is a sad day.


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