A Very Narrow Bridge

The world is a very narrow bridge; the important thing is not to be afraid. ~Nachman of Breslov

Month: July, 2012

Eleven Months Part 5: Start Now

Tisha B’Av begins at sundown tomorrow Saturday, July 28.

The saddest day of the Jewish year is one filled with tragedy upon tragedy. One of these tragedies, the destruction of the Second Temple is said to have been caused by sinat chinam, baseless hatred.

Is baseless hatred actually justified hatred that nets the hater nothing, as is concluded in the lesson I linked to just now? Or is it hatred for hatred’s sake?

You know what? It doesn’t matter. You know why? Because everyone gets angry and everyone has the potential to hate. Sometimes anger seems justified: You break my heart, I’m hurt and I’m angry with you. You hurt someone I love, I’m hurt and I’m really angry. And, if I hold on to that anger, it becomes hate.

One story behind the destruction of the Second Temple is a story of clinging to anger, public humiliation, more anger, and vengeance.

Hatred destroys. It destroys our cities, but it also destroys us. Hatred focuses ourselves on ourselves. Hatred removes the possibility of connection to each other from our consciousness.

Tisha B’Av is about remembering these tragedies, but not in order to cling to the pain they caused the Jewish people. We can note our tragedies without adding them to a scorecard of pain and suffering and reasons why we have the right to be angry.

It’s about remembering those tragedies so that we can move on. We are hurt. We are angry. We are bereaved. These are normal human states, but we can take this day and focus on moving forward. Letting go.

As usual, someone else said this much better and more succinctly:

Tisha b’Av is the beginning of Teshuvah, the point of turning toward this process by turning toward a recognition of our estrangement from God, from ourselves, and from others. ( Rabbi Alan Lew (z”l): This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, 2003, p. 52)

And so, in the middle of summer, in the middle of the heat and the bright, long days, we can consider those limitless possibilities that summer brings to mind, but first we should turn inward and do a little letting go.


This year marks the 40th anniversary of murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has decided that there should not be a moment commemorating the attack during the opening ceremony on Friday, though Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, held a moment of silence with other dignitaries on Monday, July 22.

I’m not going to comment directly on who’s right and who’s wrong about a moment of silence during the opening ceremony. The IOC didn’t ask me what I thought and a lot of other people are talking about whether Monday’s moment of silence was acceptable or not.

Instead, I’d like to talk a little about silence.

I’ve written about silence before.

Being silent means that our preconceived notions, our prejudices—even our loves—don’t get voiced.

Being silent helps us to be present. We can note our thoughts as they come and move on, allowing that which distracts us to fade away. Silence allows us to inhabit the world all the better. Without the distraction of the noise we make we are able to hear life around us, whether it’s the creaking of the house, the sound of the cat snoring, or even the small movements of those around us.

Silence allows us to inhabit our own bodies more fully. In silence we become aware of our breath, of the small noises that are made as we shift our weight on the floor, of the beating of our heart.

Silence equalizes us as human beings. That awareness of ourselves and of those who surround us can work to improve our compassion for one another. I can’t voice my opinions and neither can you. We can only be together, at that moment, in that place.

I imagine an entire stadium filled with silence. Filled with people who, for that time, are not representing countries, or particular athletic disciplines, or points of view about whether or not that moment of silence is appropriate for the Olympic opening ceremony. They’d all just represent humanity.