Thursday, July 28, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The Three Weeks are upon us and we wonder, as we do each year, how to make them meaningful. We observe the mourning-related customs conscientiously, not cutting or trimming hair, making weddings or listening to music, but by and large, life continues on as before. The days flow together, and we are hardly conscious of time passing.

After all, it’s summer. Outside, the thermometer is hitting 100 degrees. It’s time to hang loose, chill out and revel in the leisurely, carefree pace of life. Where do the Three Weeks with their somber undertones of sadness and mourning fit in? Why do they have to be in middle of the summer vacation time, getting in the way of fun and enjoyment?

Perhaps we should learn to see the Three Weeks not only as a mourning period, but as a ‘zeicher lechurban’ manifesting itself in our individual and collective lives.

When we construct a new home we leave a noticeable area unpainted opposite the entrance, to commemorate the destruction of the Batei Mikdosh. Every time we see that blank space in the wall, we remind ourselves that we are in Golus and our true home has been destroyed. Our homes here in Golus, beautiful and luxurious though they may be, are but temporary replacements for the true abodes we will build upon the arrival of Moshiach.

Even though we all have our own personal ups and downs, the lives we Jews lead here tend to lull us into thinking that we are in the Promised Land. We forget that we are in exile. The Golus here has been good to us and we lose sight of the fact that we have been evicted from our homes and land.

True, we are treated humanely and endowed with many freedoms by a malchus shel chesed, for which we are grateful. We are permitted to engage in any field of human endeavor we choose. We can live where we want and how we want. We can openly observe our religion without fear of retribution. Just last week we published a photograph of a Shomer Shabbos senator going about his business in the U.S. Senate, the most powerful body of lawmakers anywhere on earth, unshaven - with a shloshim beard. Anti-semitism, while still present, is not only officially disdained and condemned, it is prosecuted as a crime.

It is so comfortable here that we really need that zeicher lechurban, to call out to us as we walk into our homes and tell us that we are not really home.

The Three Weeks serve the same purpose. They are the “blank space,” the zeicher lechurban of our lives. Sometimes we go through life on automatic pilot, not paying enough attention to all the details, not always behaving exactly as we should. We glide through the months of July and August thinking that the sun will always shine; that life will always be warm and cozy. We silence the voice inside of us reminding us that Jews ought to know better, ought not to take their blessings for granted.

Throughout the centuries, wherever Jews found themselves, good times were mixed with bad, languid summer days were swallowed up by days of unbearable suffering.

The Three Weeks remind us not to grow too complacent. During times of plenty, during the days of sunshine, they recall for us the times of hardship, hunger and darkness. And they prompt us to be more cognizant of the lives that we are supposed to lead and the goals we are meant to achieve.

They remind us that in this period of time, Jews encountered more suffering and sadness than any other people in history. They remind us that in these weeks the Batei Mikdosh were destroyed and untold misery has been our lot throughout the ages. They proclaim that the churbanos happened because of our sins and that we have to mend our ways if we want all our days to be summer-like, peaceful and harmonious.

But sometimes we sail through the Three Week period simply going through the motions. We pay little heed to the message the signs of mourning are meant to impress on us. We barely take note of them, much as we don’t even see that zeicher lechurban when we walk into the house.

We think catastrophe won’t happen here. We think this century is different; we imagine we are protected here by laws and police. We deceive ourselves into thinking the government is capable of safeguarding our security. We tell ourselves we are safer here than we have ever been.

But we are wrong.

The British Bobbies who look so proper in their fine uniforms and hats act as though they are in control of the situation, fully equipped to keep England safe. But as all of us have witnessed, nothing can be further from the truth. Just weeks before the 7/7 bombings, police officials declared that it would be impossible for terrorism to erupt in England.

Last week terror struck again—in almost the same place—two weeks after an attack that they said could never happen, quite clearly did happen. Miraculously, for reasons they haven’t yet been able to figure out, no one was killed and very little damage, if any, was caused.

A day later, British police claimed they had shot and killed a man linked to the bombings. It took a while for them to admit that, in fact, the man shot to death by the police had nothing to do with the attacks and was shot by mistake.

These are the officials in which citizens of the world place their faith? These individuals are going to ensure that terror is wiped out?

British Arabs kill British citizens in London, and who gets blamed but the Jews living in Israel. You expect such nonsense from Egypt, where state-run television ran interviews with experts who pointed the blame at Israel. Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, which broadcast around the Arabic world, also promoted commentators who pinned the blame on the Jews and Israel.

But we like to think that the British Prime Minister and the London Mayor are more sophisticated. In a time of war, we hope they are able to distinguish between senseless, anti-Semitic scape-goating and the truth.

Americans seem, so far, to have a better understanding than the British, and President Bush to date seems to be determined to bring “justice to the killers and the killers to justice.”

But what makes us think our local police are better able to fight terror than the British Bobbies? We respect the men in blue who put their lives on the line to keep our cities and towns safe, but at times our interactions with them leave much to be desired. Can we depend upon glorified meter maids to protect our highways, trains and buildings from bloodthirsty young men bent on destroying the West?

Security officials who insist on random checking of baggage and people are more intent on being politically correct than in maintaining safety. Instead of singling out people who fit the profile of a suicide bomber, they pick obviously harmless people out of a line and submit them to the rigorous checking reserved for a hard-core terror suspect. To single out those who actually fit the profile would be ethnic profiling, something shunned in this country.

Heavily armed police walking through airports and public places cannot prevent acts of violence from happening. The most they can accomplish is to give people a perception of safety so that the masses can go about their lives without anxiety.

Israelis who nebach have become experts in security inform us that once a bomber has approached his target, there is little that can be done to prevent him from detonating. The goal ought to be preventing suicidal murderers from reaching major population centers to begin with.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent beefing up security at the country’s ports to prevent terrorists from importing deadly weapons through the water. Yet, all an ocean- borne terrorist has to do is bring his boat to an unprotected shore but a few miles from major urban centers.

Authorities have set up elaborate security screening in airports to check the documents of incoming travelers, but there is nothing stopping Al Qaeda from shipping in their murderers through the porous borders of Canada and/or Mexico.

When we realize that neither the armies of Western governments nor their police can protect us, when we recognize that only the gentle hand of G-d can prevent Bin Laden from annihilating yet more innocents in this country, we will be immeasurably closer to the time when the Three Weeks will no longer be a period of mourning.

When we realize that it is not Ariel Sharon and his colleagues who determine the borders of Eretz Yisroel, or who can save us from the evil designs of barbarians bent on our destruction, we will be on the path to redemption.

When we absorb the truth that our actions carry consequences, we will be able to effect the deliverance of the third Bais Hamikdosh.

The Three Weeks caution us to stop putting our faith in men, well intentioned as they may be. The Three Weeks proclaim that we will never be truly safe until we remove malice from our hearts. The Three Weeks tell us that no matter how powerful the Israeli army thinks it is, beasts of prey masquerading as human beings from Gaza and the West Bank can strap bombs to their bodies and kill innocent Israeli Jews.

The Three Weeks tell us that we shouldn’t be surprised when Secretary of State Rice lectures Israel that in addition to granting the poor Palestinians all of Gaza without compensation, Israel should stop hounding PA President Abbas about security and curbing terror. It shouldn’t surprise us when Rice also insists that Israel keep the borders of Gaza open so that Arabs (with terrorists among them) can travel back and forth unimpeded.

Chazal spared us from the pain of a continuous Three Week existence. We need summertime to unwind and recharge our batteries and we don’t take this gift for granted. It is a time to dance, rejoice, celebrate and have fun. The Three Weeks intervene, shocking us back into the realities of golus and of churban.

Even when lifted, the cloud of golus hovers close by, a constant reminder that it may rain down upon us the grim reality of churban once again. Until the day will shine with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

A dear friend of mine told me a while ago that he was going to Europe for vacation and invited me to join him. He said his travel plans included Paris and Italy. Since I have absolutely no interest in visiting Paris and Italy didn’t hold much appeal, I was inclined to say no thanks.

Of course, since I have to put out the paper every week it was highly unlikely that I could join him in Europe even if I wanted to, but you know how it is when you start daydreaming about escaping.

And then I thought about the fact that Rome is in Italy… and I changed my mind. There’s a reason I would like to go to Rome. I told my friend that I’d join him for a couple days of R and R, after printing the paper.

“What changed your mind?” he asked me.

I told him that it hit me that Rome is the site of the arch Titus Harasha erected to commemorate his victory over the Jews of Eretz Yisroel. On the arch are carved images of Jews who had been captured by the Romans and taken to Rome as slaves. The Romans forced them to carry aloft the keilim of the Beis Hamikdosh, and the images of broken Jews shouldering the massive weight of the menorah and other keilim are carved into the Arch of Titus.

“I would like to stand under that arch and proclaim to Titus that we are still around,” I told my friend. “We are alive, well and thriving, while he lies forgotten in history’s dustbin.”

Titus ruled the world in his time. The Roman Empire was at the pinnacle of world power and the Romans thought it would be that way forever. How wrong they were!

The Romans subdued almost all the civilized regions of the world, crushing Eretz Yisroel with particular cruelty. Their barbarism earned them eternal damnation. The people of their day thought that no one would ever arise to challenge them.

Yet today when you mention Titus, most people have no clue who you are talking about. Parts of Rome today are like a giant outdoor museum, featuring relics of the ancient past. Tour guides show you the great Roman aqueducts and the coliseum where Roman gladiators killed each other and where the Romans forced their captives to fight beasts of prey to provide sport for thousands of cheering spectators. It is all gone and forgotten.

The glory that was Rome and the arrogant Caesars are all the stuff of history, studied in order to get a passing grade on a test in school and then promptly forgotten. Today they are nothing more than tourist attractions. People who need to get away from the real world travel to Rome to inspect the sights and photograph them for the folks back home.

I wanted to stand there and tell him that am yisroel is triumphant. I wanted to stand there and tell him that Torah is studied loudly and proudly across the world in a variety of languages and dialects. In most places in the world today, Jews practice their religion freely, in peace. Despite the rise in anti-Semitism in certain quarters, Jews continue observing the Torah and practicing the lifestyle that Titus was convinced he had suppressed forever.

I wanted to stand there and tell him that my mother a”h escaped from his continent ahead of his descendent, Hitler, ym”sh , and lived to raise a family who carry forward the legacy of their forefathers. Titus thought we were done. But it was he whose life is today a mere footnote in history. His life was a waste and his legacy dissipated. By contrast, Jews are here to stay.

Since the time of Titus, many have taken on his failed mission and sought our annihilation. The list of villains who have tormented us is endless, but they have all been thrown into the trash heap of history.

There were many instances in history when it appeared as if Jews and Judaism were about to be wiped off the face of the earth. Had nature been permitted to take its course, that might have been our destiny. But we have a Divine promise that we will never be entirely decimated. As bad as it seems, as hopeless as things appear, we shall overcome.

People tend to become overwhelmed by events unfolding before them. They read in the paper that Sharon is turning over Gaza to the corrupt leaderless PA and they fear that it will turn into a terrorist haven, from which terrorists will attack Israel non-stop. They fear that without the settlements, Israel’s security will suffer and the nation will be completely vulnerable.

The truth is, al pi derech hateva, they are correct, but they are forgetting that our people are not ruled by teva. Were we ruled by nature, Eretz Yisroel would have been overrun by now. Surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction who ganged up together in several wars to carry out that aim, the small country miraculously fought them back and managed to capture territory from them.

Most of the world despises the Jewish nation, yet it persists in surviving and flourishing. The UN and other international institutions curse and condemn it, yet the small country thrives.

Enemies from inside and out do everything in their power to bring the Jews of Israel to their knees, yet they are unsuccessful. Terrorists take their young, strap bombs on them and send them onto Jewish buses in a depraved Molech-like ritual, yet despite the mayhem they cause, our people endure.

Neither the settlements nor the army guarantee our survival in Eretz Yisroel. That fact should be so plainly obvious to any honest observer.

A determined group of settlers has turned the country on its head and overtaxed the army with its continuous regimen of demonstrations. The people in charge of securing this land are at their wit’s end as they attempt to subdue young men and women armed only with orange bands. Can it be that these same individuals are keeping Israel’s borders safe? Can anyone really think that these commanders can prevent 10,000 rockets from being fired at Israel from Lebanon? Is it only due to their actions that terror died down in the Holy Land?

While many of them fight mightily and their contribution to the stability of the country is not to be minimized, without the protection of the Shomer Yisroel, how long would we be able to hold up the fort?

It is wrenching to see 9,000 Jews thrown out of their homes. It is awfully sad to see the pictures of the beautiful towns they established in Gaza over the past 30 years and know that soon, they will all be dust. But we must remember the lesson of Titus’ arch.

It is not the arches, not the highways, nor the edifices which we erect in our land which guarantee our existence there. It is not the Knesset nor is it Ariel Sharon who determines our destiny. It is not the number of soldiers, tanks or international treaties that guarantee our survival there.

In these days of Tamuz we ought to remember that it is the Shomer Yisroel who protects us. It is He who determines whether we escape danger and live, or chas veshalom find ourselves on a doomed bus or the site of an attack.

We know that it is in the merit of observing the Torah that we keep Eretz Yisroel. When we disobeyed its commandments we were evicted and Titus was empowered. When we repent and strengthen our observance and support of Torah, Hashem strengthens us and we are granted the ability to prosper.

And though I hope my friend is enjoying his vacation, I decided that we don’t have to travel to Rome to proclaim that message; nor do we have to travel there to learn it. It is self-evident. If we absorb that message now and let it re-educate us as shiva assar b’Tamuz is upon us, we can still merit to celebrate together in the Bais Hamikdosh on Tisha B’Av.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Were I to tell you that Orthodox Jews in one of the most affluent Jewish communities in the world are thinking of sending their children to public school, would you believe me?

Were I to tell you that a group of Orthodox Jews have decided they have had enough of paying yeshiva tuition on top of excessive property taxes and are about to deny their children a yeshiva education, would you think they have gone too far?

No, I am not making this up. I quote from The Long Island Jewish Herald: “A group of Orthodox families, frustrated with the rising costs of tuition for a yeshiva education, has approached the Lawrence Public Schools about using district school buildings to educate their children.”

Two people, “both of Woodmere, have organized a Committee for Supplemental Yeshiva Programs, comprising Orthodox parents in the Five Towns, to test the feasibility of joining forces with the Lawrence schools,” the article reports.

“The parents said they are paying between $6,000 and $18,000 a year to educate a child in the yeshivas. They would pay about $1,500 to bring a religious instructor into the public schools after school hours to educate their children. The students would study with other public-school children during the regular school day and then receive their religious education after hours in the public-school building.”

There are still some technicalities, like separation of church and state issues, that need ironing out before the program can begin, but those involved sense a spirit of accommodation and are optimistic that it will work out.

According to the plan, “During a typical day, the Orthodox students would daven… at a local synagogue, and then be bused to a public school like the Number Six School in Woodmere, where they would receive a secular education in addition to Hebrew language instruction. At the end of the public-school day, the Orthodox students - and anyone else who wants to - would meet in a school classroom for about 90 minutes of religious instruction taught by a religious-school teacher...”

A spokesman for the group told the Herald that “the idea of joining forces with the Lawrence Public School system is spreading like wildfire. In our town, our biggest issue is the ridiculous rise in the cost of a yeshiva education,” he said. “Under our plan, our kids will get a yeshiva education without paying for it. Obviously, we would pay the public schools for the supplemental yeshiva education.”

The spokesman told the paper that “he has met with Orthodox rabbis in the area to present the idea. ‘We expect our proposal to run into some opposition in the religious community and with the rabbis.’’”

According to the Herald article, the spokesman asserted that “some religious leaders said that even though they do not endorse the program, they would assist the committee in helping to keep the Orthodox children ‘connected to their religious contacts.’’”

It seems not all rabbis are closed-minded and intolerant; some are actually broad enough to assist the committee in keeping tabs on the doomed children.

Fifty years after the founding of Torah Umesorah and the many battles fought to establish and maintain Jewish day schools and yeshivos in this country, certain people would like to turn the clock back and negate these hard-won victories. These people are ready to tamper with the souls of Jewish children in order to trim their budget.

What is happening to us that people can actually devise such a plan without it being shot down right out of the box?

How can it be that in the year 2005, when people have money for everything under the sun, they are ready to relegate the chinuch of their children to the back seat?

It’s easy to fault the parents for their shortsightedness and misplaced priorities, to challenge their poor judgment by reminding them of what their children will look like after a few weeks in a public school class.

It’s easy to point out to them that they can forget about their children ever having a sensitivity to kedusha and taharah or a desire for shemiras hamitzvos and dikduk hamitzvos after being in a public school classroom. For how long will they continue to make brachos on their snacks? For how long will they agree to wear clothing befitting bnei and bnos Yisroel? How long will it take until they join their classmates in crossing the bounds of decency, in experimenting with all that kids in public school experiment with?

This paper is full of information about organizations in Eretz Yisroel and the United States that reach out to Jewish children and enroll them in yeshivas to save them from lives of oblivion and darkness. Yet here in our own backyards, we witness the sorry spectacle of the exact opposite process taking place.

How do we react? How do we call out to these perhaps well-intentioned but seriously misguided people? Do we tear kriyah? Do we hold a public fast day? Do we pine for an earlier tekufah when the opportunity to attend a Jewish day school or yeshiva was every Jewish child’s birthright?

When we think of Torah Umesorah, we think back in time. We think back to the larger-than-life years and dreams of Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, who while living in Williamsburg and Monsey in the mid 1940s perceived a spiritual holocaust unfolding in this country.

The Jewish people had lost six million souls in Europe; millions more would be lost if the spiritual holocaust in America went unchecked.

Where others saw wasteland, Rav Shraga Feivel saw opportunity; where others saw potential for disaster, he saw the possibility of greatness.

The situation everyone perceived as a nightmare inspired him to dream.

Back in his day, his idea of building a network of day schools and yeshivas was far from popular. Jews in 1948 said that it could not be done and were prepared to relinquish their hopes for a Torah future for the youth of America.

Rav Mendlowitz stood his ground and fought for the establishment of yeshiva day schools. His talmidim fanned out across the country, winning souls for Torah. Despite some hard-won successes, they at first, lacked popular support. They were accused of being un-American; of being “old-country.”

Financial backing was meager but their rebbe infused them with a burning dedication to carry on his mission and they made it happen. Their exhaustive efforts to lay the foundation of Torah chinuch in cities and towns across the length and breadth of the country bore fruit. We now take it for granted that every decent-sized city in this country with a Jewish population has at least one school where Jewish children can discover they are links in a glorious chain going back to Sinai.

That process is still growing and developing as every year new schools are opened, staffed and supported in more cities and towns across the continent.

And there are still thousands of children waiting for us to introduce them to the beauty of Torah and the eternal joys of its way of life.

How can it be that as those beachheads are being established, the yetzer horah has opened up a new front of attack? Can we just sit idly by and permit this to happen? As people deceive themselves into thinking that their kids can have a Gemorah rebbe and a davening monitor and an education for little more than they are paying for property taxes, will the plague spread to other cities?

We are accustomed to the idea that we are areivim for the Jewish children in Des Moines Iowa, in Las Vegas and Phoenix and Houston and Dallas. We know that we have a responsibility to them.

But we overlook our responsibility to the kids around the corner. We contribute to a myriad of Kiruv organizations, we are all besieged by so many askonim trying to stem the fallout of poor parenting, poor education or harmful social situations. Can you imagine how magnified the numbers will be of kids at risk if G-d forbid it becomes acceptable in certain communities to remove children from yeshivos and place them in public schools?

Can we afford for that to happen?

We have certain issues in our communities that we tend to sweep under the rug and make believe they don’t exist until they fester and balloon into big problems. Something should be done about this now, before it catches on and becomes the newest fad.

The Gemorah states in masechta Shabbos [daf lamed aleph amud alef], besha’ah shemachnisim odom ledin, omrim lo, nosatah venosatah b’emunah, kovatah itim leTorah, osaktah b’pirya verivya?

The Gemorah in Shabbos tells us that after 120 years when we all will face the final judgment, it will open with 3 questions: were you honest in your business dealings, did you set aside time for Torah study, and were you oseik in the commandment to be fruitful and multiply?

The Maharsha explains that the last question, Osakta bepirya verivya, addresses a person’s responsibility to help others find shidduchim. Were you oisek in helping bring about pirya verivya by helping pair up people who were having a difficult time finding their mates? The heavenly tribunal will ask every one of us if we cared enough about singles who had no shidduchim, to assist them in marrying and having families of their own.

I would like to propose that the preceding question of kavatah itim letorah can also be understood along those lines. The mitzva to learn Torah, is vehogisah bo yomam valayla. Kevias itim letorah is a fulfillment of the mitzva of vehogisah. Yet, the Gemorah tells us that we will be asked Kavatah itim letorah and not Hagaatah batorah which is the actual mitzva.

Perhaps the question will be whether we were kovea that others could learn Torah. They will ask us if we helped establish shiurim for other people. They will ask if we contributed to the cause so that another school could be established, another rebbi trained, another rabbi sent out of town to spread Torah.

We will be asked if we were kovea that Jewish children belong in a makom Torah and not in a makom tumah. They will ask if we knew that people started a campaign to empty yeshivos of yiddisher neshamos and transfer them to a makom zima and if we were kovea in a public way that this is intolerable and unacceptable.

We are all areivim for the Jewish children in Woodmere and Lawrence as well as those in Des Moines, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston and Dallas. We have a responsibility to all of them.

Every Jewish child is the bearer of a sacred tradition; every Jewish child has a mission to perpetuate the legacy of his forbears. Every Jewish child is entitled to a Jewish education in an atmosphere that can nurture his neshomoh. No Jewish child belongs in public school.

Let’s resolve to alleviate this situation and seek methods to get even more children enrolled into yeshivos in this country and wherever Jews reside. Let us do what we can to ensure that they remain there.

That way when the ultimate question is asked if we were kovea itim for Torah, we will be able to offer a positive response.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

In the current campaign in Israel that seeks to block Ariel Sharon’s unilateral Gaza disengagement plan, one of the slogans reads, “Yehudi Lo Megareish Yehudi, One Jew doesn’t evict another Jew.”

I have seen so many pictures of signs and bumper stickers all over Eretz Yisroel with that expression printed on them that finally they have made some sort of impression on me and forced me to think. What do those words really mean and what are they trying to accomplish by plastering them all over the country? Is there a message in them for us here on the opposite side of the ocean?

The first reaction is that the slogan doesn’t mesh with reality –certainly in Israel today, it is little more than wishful thinking to say that a Jew does not evict another Jew.

Bluntly stated, Jews do evict Jews. The Israeli army is undergoing an intense campaign to do just that, evicting Jews from their homes in Gaza in order to fulfill a politician’s promise. Even as bumper stickers and street signs proclaim that Jews do not do such things, young Israeli Jewish soldiers beat and arrest young Israelis sympathetic to the settler cause. Last week 150 Jewish people were evicted from Gaza because the authorities wanted them out of the way.

The sad truth is that Yehudi Kein Megareish Yehudi, but the slogan at least offers a utopian hope and expresses the way things should be.

Perhaps the day has come when Jews will begin to treat each other a little better. Perhaps the day has come when Yehudi aino medaber rah l’Yehudi. Is there any reason why that level of harmony should not materialize in our own day? We could make it happen by endeavoring to speak more nicely to each other, by being more considerate and doing whatever we can to come to one another’s aid.

Perhaps there should be a campaign to restore civility to public and private discourse.

If we have a disagreement with someone, it doesn’t have to bring us down into the gutter. We don’t have to get adversarial, vilifying the other party, castigating and cursing them. After all, aren’t we all brothers and sisters?

There is a proper and dignified way to say anything which needs to be said. We ought to master that way of communicating.

Not everyone with whom we disagree is a villain, and not everyone whose motives we question deserves to be excommunicated. At least give the person the benefit of the doubt and offer them an opportunity to explain themselves before jumping to conclusions.

We can disagree without becoming mortal enemies. Just because we don’t see eye to eye on everything doesn’t mean we can’t talk to each other. If someone dresses a little different than we do, does that mean that the person should be rejected as if he were an alien from another planet?

Imagine if we would begin distributing bumper stickers with messages such as, “Ahl tadun chaveircha ahd shetagiah limkomo”? How about if we hung signs from our windows proclaiming the immortal words, “Ve’ahavta lerayacha kamocha”?

Would we be accused of being nebs, weirdos and the like? On the other hand, maybe it would prompt people to stop and think about how they are behaving.

Maybe if we had a bumper sticker that urged, “Kol devarecha yihyoo benachas” on the rear of your car, the guy behind you wouldn’t beep incessantly when you paused for a moment to let your son out of the car. And maybe, if the bumper sticker reminded you to “Be A Mentch,” people would actually stop to let you make a left turn into the intersection.

Are we all that bad? Certainly not! Though the few rotten apples ruin it for the entire bunch, and give the whole community a bad name, the vast majority of people are good, and kind and courteous. However, even they can benefit from trying to become better. There is no better time to start than now, in the summer, when everyone is calmer.

Rosh Chodesh Tamuz heralds the fast day of Shiva Assar B’Tamuz and the ensuing period of the tragedy-laden “three weeks.” These weeks are the international Jewish time of sadness. We mourn the destruction of the batei mikdosh and the pogroms, crusades, calamities and auto da fetes in our history that number too many to count.

As we go through the bein hametzorim, and mourn the churbanos and tragedies that befell our people throughout the ages, we need to do more than just refrain from haircuts and listening to music. We need to do more than grieve. We need to implement change. We have to try to engender a renewal. We have to conduct ourselves in a way that will lead to the rebuilding of the mikdosh and Yerushalayim. We need to turn the negative occasions into positive ones; aivel and yagon into simcha and sasson.

Our actions have consequences; the way we act towards each other impacts our lives and affects the way Hashem acts towards us. Chazal teach that the Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed as a punishment for sinas chinom, the baseless hatred from which the Jews of the Temple period suffered. If the batei mikdosh have not yet been rebuilt, it signifies that we are still found wanting by Hashem in the area of bein odom l’chaveiro.

Let’s take a step towards contributing to the construction campaign of the bais hamikdosh hashelishi by watching how we treat each other. Let’s remove malice from our hearts and hatred from our lips. Every time we treat a fellow Jew charitably, every time we give another person the right of way; every time we bite our tongues and refrain from derogatory speech, we are adding a grain of sand to the big cement mixer up in Heaven which is preparing the bayis hashelishi.

When we behave in a civil manner towards each other we are demonstrating that we are indeed ready for the final redemption. When we admonish without hate, we send a signal to shomayim that we have learned our lesson and no longer need a mournful Tisha B’Av to galvanize us to repair our ways.

When we rescue one another from difficult straits; support each other with kindness and courteousness; when we reach out to each other with brotherly love and respect, we demonstrate that we are worthy of being the recipients of Divine largesse.

When “Yehudi Lo megareish Yehudi” becomes a way of life and not just an empty slogan, we will be lifted on kanfei nesharim to the eternal land and bayis from which we will never be evicted.

May we all merit that experience, b’mheirah b’yomainu omain.