Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Be the Change.......

“It is not incumbent of you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it…” Pirkei Avot 2:16
Being Jewish makes every day special and meaningful. Today, Tisha B’Av, is even more so.
Tisha B’Av is the saddest day in the Hebrew Calendar. According to tradition, many tragic events are said to have happened on this solemn day over the centuries. Both Temples were destroyed by the Babylonians and the Romans respectively. On this day, the last stronghold of Bar Kochba was captured and his rebellion against the Romans was finally defeated. On the ninth of Av in 1290, King Edward I signed an edict compelling the Jews of England to leave the country. It was also on this day, according to tradition that the Jews were expelled out of Spain in 1492, and the day World War I broke out in 1914.
Naturally, we cannot change the events of our history. Can we, though, affect, influence or change its future course?
The question of whether events and circumstances control people or whether people control them, has long occupied the human mind. I am a firm believer in the latter. The optimist in me subscribes to Virginia Woolf’s belief of “forever altering one's aspect to the sun.” It is also known as adaptation.
The world we live in is far from perfect. It may never be that way but what is to stop us from striving towards that goal?
When it comes to affecting events in our lives and our world, I tend to distinguish between Fate and Destiny.
We cannot change fate. Fate is the common denominator all humans share. We are all born at some stage and will eventually die sooner or later. Destiny, however, that which takes place between the time of our birth and time of our death, is what we, as thinking creatures, Homo Sapiens, are capable of shaping and molding with change being its end result. “The measure of Intelligence is the Ability to change,” thus told us Albert Einstein. That includes our actions and the events that they produce (excluding, of course, natural occurrences over which none of us have any control).
The ability to affect and shape one’s destiny has been one of the prominent features of our Jewish People. It is not limited to individuals, though. It can also happen on the national realm. National survival or existence does not occur on its own. It needs to start with the smallest unit of that entity, the individual. In our case, it is you and me.
As a Jew, especially on this grim day of national mourning, I seek that change for our People. Jewish history is soaked with rivers of blood and a sea of tears. Why would we, or anyone want to repeat that? We need to understand, however, that it is the task of every Jew to be the change that they wish to see in our People. Learning and internalizing past lessons is the key and precursor to that change. On this day, I ask every Jew to stop and ask themselves, what have we learned from our People’s past so that we can change and improve in our Jewish future?
On Tisha B’Av, more than ever, the Jewish World must realize that it cannot afford to repeat past mistakes. Neither are we free to absolve ourselves from the duty and the task that G-d has entrusted us with, through the Covenant we entered with Him at Mount Sinai. We were ordered to choose Life and we agreed. Life, as we Jews know, is not always easy for us, if ever.
It is during such times that the wise words of Victor Frankl should light our path, “When we are no longer able to change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”


  1. Very well written. But you need to edit the name of Virginia "wolf". It was Woolf.

    1. Thank you, Reuven Well noted. I will correct accordingly. (y)

  2. Jonathan Engel asked me to post this on his behalf. Wishing you a speedy recovery, dearest:
    "Can't seem to work out how to post a comment on your article, so i'll just do it by email.

    Very much agree, as usual Sis, with your thoughts.

    I'm still in cardiac rehab here, and will be "free" on Saturday (!), but did have a relevant thing to share:

    Last week, one evening when some of the (less elderly) patients were sitting together after the day's exercise, and talks about living well and keeping off cigarettes (not my problem) and booze (perhaps a little (guilty) pleasure of mine...), not eating salty stuff (don't like it anyway) or too much sweet stuff (not my problem, don't each (much) cake, and prefer bitter chocolate), there was this woman holding forth on how we should mend our ways to live longer. She got on my nerves a bit, rather a "holier than thou" christic thing.

    I interrupted, and pointed out that the main point in living is not to survive, to outlive their neighbour or the husband or sister, but to ask "why"... I then launched myself into a rather politically correct presentation about the thought that we all shared something, that we were "rescapés" which is something between 'survivors' and 'escapees' and had to base a more positive vision on that, rather than on living a (doubtlessly) virtuous life without booze or cigarettes, with exercise and moderate amounts of sex, reading health magazines in the evening while watching the television.

    I must say I was rather eloquent, and without the encouragement of any whisky, explained that we had a duty (much as does your article) to bring something to the dinner table in terms of ideas, behaviour and gentility, though our experience as "rescapés"..... (pretty Jewish argument that !)

    Just a thought,

    A big Hug,


  3. Thank you, Jonathan. Hope to see you back with us soon <3