A short quiz: What is the most elusive as well as the most vital ingredient in life? You may be blessed with everything in life – wisdom, love, success, wealth – but if you are lacking this invisible element everything else is rendered almost meaningless. When a mother stares into her newborn child’s eyes with absolute unconditional love she conveys this mysterious force. In our highly accelerated and depersonalized technological age this commodity is abused on a daily basis What is it?
Today – as we honor Tisha B’Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar commemorating the destruction of both Temples – we shall discover that this critical element in life is dignity. And it is hinted to in the number of the day: Nine.
The oldest Kabbalastic text ever composed – attributed to Abraham – offers us a cryptic phrase: “Ten shapeless sefirot, ten and not nine, ten and not eleven.” Tisha B’Av teaches us the profound and personally relevant meaning of these words. Call it our original Nine Eleven.
Each of us has an indispensable soul within, which is the ultimate root of all self-confidence and sense of purpose. Our convictions, hopes and greatest dreams flow from our inner malchus – which is really the profound sense of dignity and majesty that stems from the Divine Image in which we were all created. It is the feeling that “I matter” and that “I have the power to achieve anything I set my mind to.”
In contrast, what is the root of all destruction? The annihilation of malchus – when this inner sense of dignity is violated. Once that part of us – our purest element, which feeds our sense of self-worth – is compromised, it’s just a matter of time before our life begins to spiral downward out of control, in one form or another.
The deeper meaning of Tisha B’Av is the story of dignity destroyed and dignity restored.
This sermon examines a story of one Jew, Michael, whose compromised self-worth led him on a path of drug addiction. It then analyzes – on this Shabbat Tisha B’Av which is also known as Shabbat Chazon (“Shabbat of Vision”), when the Prophet Isaiah foresaw the destruction but also the restoration – why such problems haunt our communities and what we can do about them. How Tisha B’Av offers us methods of reclaiming at will that pure, loving gaze of your mother (even if your mother didn’t offer it) – and making it a viable reality that informs your daily life.
Ahh, dignity… What an elusive but necessary element in life. How is your dignity lately? Do you feel that it has been trampled on, undermined, abused? If yes, join the club. But today we shall create a new club – one that embraces and celebrates each person’s individual dignity; the majesty of the human spirit; the sanctity of who you are, the beauty of your individuality. When was the last time that someone celebrated your dignity, for no other reason than it being… your birthright?
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