Thursday, August 15, 2019

15th of Av and Religious Exemption

Happy 15th of Av!
This day is celebrated by Jews worldwide since antiquity. Never before has this special day had as much timely relevance as today, as the fate of religious exemption hangs in the balance.

Why? Let's first consider the five happy events that occurred on this date in Jewish history.
    1. The dying of the generation of the Exodus ceased. Men in their sixtieth year – who were thought to have been doomed to perish in the desert – were forgiven and allowed to proceed to the Promised Land with the new generation. G-d began to lovingly communicate with Israel via Moses once more, after 38 years of not doing so.
    2. Tribes were permitted to marry within one-another. Prior to that date, during the early times of conquest and settling of the Land, a woman who had no brothers was not permitted to marry outside of her tribe, since her heirs would then be members of their father’s tribe. Such a marriage would eventually cause the transfer of land from one tribe to another (see Numbers 36). On the 15th of Av, this rule was repealed, and women inheriting land were permitted to marry men from other tribes.
    3. On this date circa 1200 BCE, the Tribe of Benjamin, which had been excommunicated and alienated from the other tribes due to the incident of the “Concubine at Gibeah” (Judges 19-21), was welcomed back into the community of Israel. Men from Benjamin were once more permitted to marry women from other tribes. 
    4. After the death of King Solomon, the ten northern tribes rejected the kingdom of Judah to form their own breakaway kingdom. Roadblocks were built to prevent citizens of the northern Kingdom of Israel from making pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. On this date, 15 Av (in 574 BCE), these divisive barriers were finally removed by Hoshea ben Elah, the last king of the northern kingdom, who opened the roads to Jerusalem
    5. On the 15th of Av (in 148 CE) the corpses of the many thousands of residents of Betar (slain by the Romans after the Bar Kochba rebellion) were finally allowed to be buried by their fellow Jews.

Do you see the common theme here?
Each of these events signified reconciliation and reunification after a period of alienation and estrangement.

  • The generation doomed to die in the desert was forgiven and permitted join the new generation, and Israel was reconciled with G-d once more.
  • The barrier of patrimonial inheritance laws that had once divided the tribes was now repealed, and all Israel could unite through marriage.
  • After years of alienation, Benjamin and the Tribes reconciled and reunited through matrimony.
  • After two centuries of restrictive barriers, Israel could once more join their brethren to the south and reunite with G-d in the Holy Temple.
  • The bodies of the slain Jews could finally be laid to rest in proper Jewish burial, a posthumous reunification with their people.
And now, on the 15th of Av of this year (August 16, 2019), we yearn for reconciliation and reunification yet again.
Sadly, several months back, thousands of Jewish children were wrongly banned from school for no good reason. Due to zealous school administrators and principals, goaded on by city and state officials, these innocent children were alienated from their schools and neighborhoods, treated as pariahs and lepers. Even worse, the state legislature then hastily passed an unjust law cementing these poor children’s fate.
In a flagrant violation of First Amendment rights, the state eliminated religious exemption thereby coercing all residents of NY State to vaccinate or be barred from school… an unprecedented barrier driving a wedge between these children and their peers, marginalizing Jewish families from their communities.
Today, the 15th of Av, we hope and pray for the end of this unlawful alienation of Jewish children.
We yearn for a reconciliation between NY’s Jewish communities and these precious children who suffered estrangement, humiliation, and scorn. 
Let Klal Yisroel reunite once more, and let’s tear down the artificial barriers that divide us into “provaxxer” and “antivaxxer” camps.
Let’s learn to respect one another, and honor each individual’s freedom to his or her own medical choices. In truth, we are one people, bound by an inherent unity that transcend all differences.
Please join me in prayer as we look forward to hearing good news, the return of sanity to N.Y. State and a stay on this deplorable law, and ultimately, its repeal.

The Talmud states: "There were no greater festivals for Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.

Indeed, there is no greater joy than when Jews reconcile and unite as one.

בימים ההם בזמן הזה. In those days and in our times.
Celebrate Jewish unity. Celebrate the 15th of Av!


  1. Amein!!!
    Beautiful words. May every layer of this galus be removed.

  2. Well said! Thank you for being a sane voice among the insanity of diviseness and mandates.

  3. Amen! May it happen today. May we celebrate another victory to add to the list as Jews and people around the nation are allowed back to schools as all children deserve with no child left behind.