Spreading “Baseless Love” Throughout Israel
Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the Temple due to sinat hinam (baseless hatred), is a perfect time for the Yachad Program for Jewish Identity to promote baseless love, Jewish unity and reflection on the frictions and animosities facing the Jewish people today
The three weeks between the 17th of the Hebrew month “Tammuz” and the 9th of “Av” (Tisha B’Av) mark a unique time in the Jewish calendar. It was on the 17th of Tammuz that the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem were breached in attacks leading to the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans on the 9th of Av. As a result, this period is characterized by mourning and reflection, culminating in the fast of Tisha B’Av.
While traditional Jews are familiar with the customs and themes connected to this time of year, for many who identify as secular, it typically passes unnoticed. Coordinators from OTS’ Yachad Program for Jewish Identity thus use this period as an opportunity for engagement and connection, through an array of activities to educate people of all ages about this important time in the Jewish calendar and relevant messages that can help us improve ourselves and our lives.
Activities focus particularly on the importance of “spreading love” and building positive connections – to counteract the divisiveness said to be rampant during the time when the Temple was destroyed (and which unfortunately remain today).
Among the reasons offered by the rabbis for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was the proliferation of senseless hate. To foster unity and connection among people of different perspectives, the three weeks offers an opportunity to reflect on the importance of building positive relationships.
Several facilitators coordinated community-wide “Baseless love” campaigns. In Hatzor, the campaign, coordinated with organizations throughout the community, including youth groups, camps, and educational programs for adults, included classes and activities for people of all ages, educating participants and helping them foster stronger connections with their neighbors.
Children in local camps prepared signs thanking the neighborhood cleaning staff and soldiers serving in the area for their hard work, and prepared senseless love-themed craft activities for other groups of children. Teens delivered flowers to elderly residents and prepared activity packages for families in isolation. Every age group, from pre-school and older children to teens and adults, participated in classes focused on topics such as giving people the benefit of the doubt and helping others.
In Maale Yosef, a play for children in local camps educated them about the importance of giving, helping and getting along with others. The play was based on a classic story from the Talmud about Kamtsa and Bar Kamtsa, about a misunderstanding between the two men which spirals out of control and is cited as a potential reason for the destruction of the Temple.
To maintain the smaller-sized groups required by health regulations, the play was shown six times to different groups of children, followed by a quiz game to reinforce the themes of loving and helping others. The response to the play was so positive that it was held in several other locations, as well.
In the spirit of strengthening community and building unity, across the country, Yachad coordinated Zoom programs held on the evening of Tisha B’Av, focused on “bridging divides” in Israeli society – between right and left and religious and secular. In the program coordinated by Yachad in Beit Shean, men and women who teach in Orthodox, Conservative, and secular study programs and yeshivot addressed the theme “A Time to Love,” in a discussion facilitated by Israeli journalist Ori Heitner. Several similar sessions were offered throughout Israel, reaching thousands of participants from Yachad communities and beyond.
“There are so many positive messages we can learn from this time in the Jewish calendar that can help strengthen Israeli society,” says Yachad program director Rabbi Shai Naveh. “Messages about unity and treating others with respect are core Jewish values that form the foundation of Yachad’s approach. We strive to create communities that welcome Jews of all backgrounds, where people can live, learn and celebrate their common heritage together.”