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Angry woman

Tisha B’av is meant for us to give pause and contemplate our relationships with others and the feelings of anger and hate that we might harbor.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week, Jews around the world will observe the mournful day of Tisha B’av – the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. Although primarily infamous as being the day on which both the first and second Holy Temples were destroyed, along with the city of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of the Jewish people, a number of lesser-known tragedies befell the Jewish People on this day as well.

These tragedies include, for example, the decree for the Jews to wander the desert for 40 years, the day the first crusade began, the day the Jews of England were expelled in 1290, the day the Jews of Spain were expelled in 1492, and the beginning of the deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto.

According to Talmudic legend, the following story was the cause of the destruction of Jerusalem:

Because of Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah, Jerusalem was destroyed. There was a man (we don’t know his name) who had a friend named Kamtzah and an enemy named Bar Kamtzah. This person made a party, and told his servant to invite Kamtzah. Instead, the servant went ahead and accidentally invited Bar Kamtzah. When the host saw Bar Kamtzah at his party, he said, “What are you doing here? Get up! Get out!”

“Since I am here already, let me just stay and I’ll pay for my meal,” replied Bar Kamtzah.

“No!” said the host.

“Ok. I’ll pay for half the party,” Bar Kamtzah offered.

“No! Leave now!”

“Ok. Let me stay and I’ll pay for the entire party!”

“No!” said the host, and he had Bar Kamtzah physically removed from the party.

Humiliated and enraged that the rabbis at the party did not protest the host’s outrageously rude behavior, Bar Kamtzah went to Rome and told the Caesar that the Jews were plotting a rebellion against him. Convinced that the man was telling the truth, the Caesar destroyed Jerusalem.

Ignoring a Win-Win Situation

The question is asked: Why didn’t the host just give in so that Bar Kamtzah would pay for the entire party? What a win-win situation! In fact, under such circumstances, perhaps the host should have thanked his servant for making such a money-saving mistake.

The answer, we are told, is that when a person hates others, he or she loses the ability to think rationally. A person becomes so overtaken with emotion, with hate, with anger, with a desire for revenge, that he is ready to act on these emotions even at great financial loss.

Imagine! The host had a chance to give in, save face AND have the party fully paid for. But no, his anger took over. This is the power of anger, the damage that hate can cause.

Tisha B’av is meant for us to give pause and contemplate our relationships with others and the feelings of anger and hate that we might harbor. In most cases, we can probably “let it go” quite easily and just move on. In fact, after awhile, enemies often forget why they became enemies in the first place.

May we find the strength to overcome our grudges and move on in our relationships as happier people!