Tonight, We Don’t Learn Torah
“On Tisha B’Av we are compelled to rise above any division and debate and to remember that we have a common purpose”
In recent years, the “Tonight, We Don’t Learn Torah” Tisha B’Av programs have become a fixture on the Israeli landscape, as hundreds of thousands of Israelis flock to participate in panel discussions across the country with a focus on issues of national unity and “selfless caring” for others.
The name of the program, which features prominent social and rabbinical figures, politicians, and media personalities, emanates from the well-known concept that on Tisha B’Av, traditional Torah learning is avoided and instead, Jews are encouraged to dedicate themselves to topics that will bring us closer together – an antidote to the baseless hatred which is associated with the destructions marked on this day.
This year, in recognition of Ohr Torah Stone’s place as an educational force for social change, the network’s “Yachad Program for Jewish Identity” was invited to serve as a partner in the program alongside the its founding organization, the Sderot Conference.
Dedicated to the theme of “First Israel, Second Israel and the Third Temple,” this year’s participants included Miriam Peretz, Rabbi David Stav, Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, Sivan Rahav Meir, Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana, Chabad emissary to Katmandu Chani Lifshitz, and tens of other public figures and scholars. Sessions focused on the increasingly troubling reality that there are multiple divisions within Israeli society that are marked on religious, ethnic and cultural lines that prevent true social unity. Individual programs took place in all the major cities from north to south of Israel including Bet Shean, Lod, Rishon LeZion, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and many others.
In addition, for the very first time this year one of the 17 panels was dedicated to English-speakers, as OTS President and Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander appeared with former MK Attorney Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Bar Ilan University lecturer Dr. Mordechai Kedar and media personality Esti Zakheim in the city of Raanana.
The “Tonight, We Don’t Learn Torah” program is designed to focus our emotional and mental attention on this most somber of days to asking what we can do to change our world for the better,” says Rabbi Brander. “We are prohibited from Torah study on this day because it fills us with a sense of personal joy that we need to avoid during this day of mourning. But in place of traditional Torah study, we should not make the mistake that we are exempt from education. We developed this program to focus on a series of thought-provoking lectures and conversations that address the schisms and conflicts which sadly still pervade our society.”
“The reality is that as Jews we have a remarkable talent to distinguish ourselves from those to the right of use and the left of us and we enjoy taking pride in our uniqueness’s and individuality in practice and opinions,” said Yachad Program director Rabbi Shay Nave. “But on Tisha B’Av we are compelled to rise above any division and debate and to remember that we have a common purpose to come closer to one another and that at least this one day we need to come together and find the ways to reduce the divisions which sadly continue to define us.”