The parashah that we are reading this week is Parashat Devarim. It is the first of the 5th and last book of the Torah.
In this parashah we see that the people of Israel must mature. Moshe is going to leave them alone and they are going to have to stop depending on him and make decisions for themselves.
In this sense, the leader makes a kind of summary in a 36-day speech. Thirty-six days in which the people surround their teacher and listen patiently. In these speeches, he reviews everything that happened on the journey through the desert, beginning with the story of the meraglim, the spies who had an erroneous or partial reading of what the Promised Land was like, and who did not know how to trust the vision of the Creator.
According to the Talmud in masechet Taanit, it was in that night that was determined that, just as they cried a cry in vain for a land which they could not see that flew milk and honey, so they would cry in the future for the misfortunes that would come.
And of course it is not a coincidence that we read this parashah precisely on the Shabbat of Tishah beAv, that falls on Friday night but has the fasting postponed to Saturday night until Sunday evening, since there is no fasting on Shabbat, except when it is Yom Kippur that falls on that holy day.
In this kind of determinism, it seems that the two destructions of the Great Temple of Yerushalayim, the Beit haMikdash, that we remember in 9 of Av, were inevitable. The first desctruction due to paganism, bloodshed and incestuous relationships, while the second was destroyed by gratuitous hatred and excessive attachment to money (Tamud Yerushalmi, tractate of Yoma).
The misfortunes that we also remember in Tishah beAv would also be inevitable, according to Taanit: the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the inauguration of the Treblinka camp (representative of the entire Shoah), and even the attack to the Amia in Buenos Aires on 10th of Av.
In another tractate, Pirkei Avot, we find a well-known phrase, "Hakol tzafui vehareshut netuna". Everything is planned, but the choice is possible.
It sounds counterintuitive, and it was attached to countless controversies about whether we really have choices in our daily lives or whether everything is perfectly planned.
There may be a plan. But it is up to us to change our destiny and achieve a better society than the one we have. With more acceptance, more commitment to those most in need and to those around us. A society that does not admit gratuitous violence.
And it starts with each one of us. In general, we remain firm in our way of being, without reviewing our attitudes and our actions. We tend to react to the words or attitudes of our family, friends or those around us, without seeing how we can improve, how we can change something in our behavior with them to achieve better bonds. And that is really the beginning of Tikkun Olam—to bring about a better world: when we can change something in ourselves (when each of us do it), leaving selfishness or pride that only feed the possibility of that determinism we were talking about and that leads to misunderstanding and sadness.
Recognizing that sinat achim and sinat chinam, brotherly hate and gratuitous hate, still exist today is crucial. And get to work to find a solution and apply it. Not recognizing detachment from our tradition and mitzvot does not help us. Not because THAT can bring misfortune, but because it separates us as a people and from the values that have kept us strong and close to God.
Today, there are many of those, with intention or without it, that help to ignite the flames of destruction and hatred.
Let's make a curve in that deterministic path, which will lead us to a better place.
May we have a significant day of fasting, reflection on ourselves and commitment, to make our choice possible in a world that does not want to be deterministic.