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Joshua Cypess
+ Your AuthorsArchive @JoshuaCypess PhD social scientist & Orthodox Rabbi. We're all in this together. He/him. #BlackLivesMatter #Steelers #Mets #Resist Jun. 25, 2021 3 min read

1/ Erev Shabbat #Balak, esp. when the fast of #Tammuz is on Sunday, carries a special memory for me and this pandemic year(s) makes me feel especially nostalgic, so here goes.

In 2018 my wife was given a grant to do research in Europe which allowed us to plan a summer trip.

2/ She spent the first week in Germany and then I joined her in England for a second week with the kids. Just in time, in turns out, for a historic heat wave. World travelers know that American air conditioning is unheard of in Europe. They're proud of it! 

3/ My old yeshiva friend, Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, invited me to give a guest sermon at the Finchley Synagogue (aka Kinloss). That night was the 17th of Tammuz (and UK time to begin the fast was around 1am!) 

4/ It was a scorching Shabbas but Rabbi Lawrence was a wonderful host & we were treated very well. It was June 30, 2018 & I spoke about the protest I was missing in the USA, about family separations. 

5/ At the time, I said that the American Orthodox community was being spared the depredations of the Trump (ym'sh) admin., which gave us the responsibility to speak out since we could act 'objectively.' (This was after Charlottesville, true, but before Pittsburgh rm"l).

6/ Sun. was the longest fast I've ever suffered through, in 90F+ heat & no real A/C. My faulty memory tells me that it was on that day that Anthony Kennedy announced his tragic retirement, but it was actually Thu. Yet in my head it fit the mood of doom. 

7/ We felt we should go to a museum because they were usually air conditioned; the British Museum claimed to have A/C so onward we went.

Now, I'm not accusing them of lying, just that they had a different definition of "A/C" than we use in the States. 

8/ The British Museum, as y'all know, is like one big crime scene. But thematically it was a very good place to be on a fast day commemorating the destruction of the second Temple and the beginning of the 3 weeks. 

9/ These are Roman era coins of the "fiscus Judaicus" - the tax the Jews were forced to pay by the empire as a punishment for the revolt in 70CE that led to the destruction of the Temple that we're fasting about! 

10/ The second coin is for the tax to pay for the second revolt against the Romans in 135CE. One of the main pushes by early notzrim to separate from Judaism was to avoid paying the tax.

In any case, this was a perfect thing to witness on a fast day. 

11/ At the end of our visit, though, we saw the artefacts stolen from Mesopotamia and saw items made to glorify Sennacherib, the king who destroyed the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel in First Temple times. 

12/ While this was more commemorating the 9th of Av, the 17th of Tammuz begins the three weeks, so thematically it works.

And here I was, 2700 years later: my people were still alive while the Assyrians were literally history. 

13/ It was a positive feeling after a week of deathly heat, tragic news in America - Kennedy, the family separations - and my sermon attempting to rescue my people from the sins of our destruction, especially that of cruelty, injustice & baseless hatred.

14/ This year feels more hopeful, of course. My whole family is vaccinated, the pandemic is quelling, Trump (ym'sh) may soon meet Sennacherib's fate if we work hard enough - as an object lesson of the cost of hatred and inhumanity.

15/ Easy fast everyone. And may this year we have a fleishigs Tisha B'av.

#ReshetKeshet. #ThreeWeeks #17thTammuz


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