Since we don't fast on Shabbat, this year the fast of the 17th day of Tammuz
is delayed until Sunday, the 18th of Tammuz, July 8, 2012. 17 Tammuz is an infamous day of calamity in the Jewish calendar that signifies the beginning of the 3-week period that culminates on Tisha B'Av
, the notorious day when both Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed.
Every year, during one of my periodic trips to the Ukraine, I attend to the upkeep of the old Jewish cemetary in Yanov, where many of my ancestors on my father’s side are buried. Yanov is a small town, or "shtetyl", that was established in the year 1552, located halfway between Breslev and Berditchev in the central Ukraine. A few famous tzaddikim hails from Yanov, as well as my father's family. About 13 years ago, together with the moral support of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Gabbai
of Ohalei Tzaddikim
, I began a campaign to save the Jewish cemetary there; two-thirds of it had already become squash and potato fields, ripped off by the locals. With Hashem's help, we succeeded in saving what was left.
In addition, we also established a monument on 2 mass graves from the holocaust (image, below).
One of the mass graves, within the bounds of the Yanov cemetary, contains the remains of Yanov's 1,000 Jews. The other mass grave, on the outskirts of town near the railroad crossing, contains the remains of 2,500 Jews that were being deported from other towns. The Nazis stopped the train, let the Jews dig an enormous pit (their own graves), and then shot them all.
Above: Foreground, Yanov train crossing. Background, within the white masonry walls, is a giant mass grave where 2500 Jews dug a huge pit before being shot in the head by the Nazis.
The Nazis could have never completed their task without the cooperation of the locals. To this day, antisemitism is deeply rooted in the hearts of the Ukrainians.
Above: A closer view of the mass pit area. The Ukrainian government tried to steal the show by erecting elaborate monuments of their own, which say in Russian, "Here lie Ukrainian victims of Fascist terror, 1942", with no mention of Jews at all. The Ukrainians are also responsible for the wreaths. Orthodox Jews do not put flowers or wreaths on graves.
The ugliest phenomenon I know is intramural Jewish hate. So many Jews allow themselves the luxury of hating other Jews that don't look and think like they do. I'd like to organize a trip for the haters to come see the mass graves of Jews in the Ukraine; maybe after seeing what other nations did (and still want to do) to us, our misguided brothers and sisters won't allow themselves the luxury of hating each other.
If you don’t like your fellow Jew, please don’t apply to learn in the Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Our beloved Rosh Yeshiva and spiritual guide Rabbi Shalom Arush shlit’a is phenomenally tolerant and patient, but he doesn’t tolerate even a one-syllable slur about another Jew, much less a remark about a rabbi or group. The offender is out on his ear, with no ifs, ands or buts. Why?
It’s dangerous to be in the proximity of a person that speaks evil speech about fellow Jews. Such people invoke severe judgments not only on themselves, but on their surroundings – especially on those who listen to them and don’t object vigorously, shut them up, or leave the scene fast. Instead of us leaving the Yeshiva, we toss out the wagging tongue…
The bad news is that as long as there's no Jewish unity, we can expect many more years of 17 Tammuz and Tisha B'Av headaches. The good news is that if we start acting like loving brothers and sisters to each other, 17 Tammuz and 9 Av will become happy festivals, celebrated in the courtyard of our rebuilt Holy Temple in Jerusalem, amen.
(We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal, “Lazer Beams