Under Siege

My sister attacked me and I, in my total commitment to truth, justice and the Jewish way, fought back. My father, who was in the hospital with my seriously ill mother, rushed home, took both of us to the hospital for stitches and brought us home. My sister attacked me again the second we walked into the house.

We then heard the scariest words we ever heard in our lives, before or since; my father said, “I think I’m getting angry!” We ran into the upstairs bathroom, jumped into the bathtub and pulled the curtain, hugging each other for dear life. I was watching the door, waiting to hear whether my father would come up the stairs.

I began to wonder; “Which is worse? Was the greater danger outside the door, my  almost angry father? Or, was it far more dangerous to be inside the door, stuck with my sister, who was, yuk, hugging me?”  I left the bathroom.

There are walls that keep out danger and there are walls that keep us stuck. How did the people of Jerusalem under the Babylonian siege feel about the walls of their city? Were the walls their final protection from the marauding hordes just outside? Did the walls make them feel imprisoned? Did they begin to hate the walls as the weeks, and then months passed by?

Jeremiah had been warning them for years of the dangerous army to the East. The people refused to heed his warnings. It was as if there were magical walls to keep the Babylonians away. Those same imaginary walls that protected Israel from the outside, also imprisoned them, long before Nebuchadnezzar attacked: The people erected walls around themselves to “protect” them from Jeremiah’s warnings and rebuke. They placed barriers around them so they would not have to pay attention to the military and political realities around them. The people were already stuck inside of walls they believed would protect them. They were already under siege.

I constantly see people under siege by armies of anger, resentment, fear, and confusion. They use their anger to keep people distant, without realizing that they are locking themselves in. They shut friends off in resentment, all the while suffering inside the walls they have erected around them. There are people who shut the world out in fear of their questions and doubts, slowly beginning to hate the walls that contain them.

We don’t need Babylonians or Romans to lay siege. We do a fine job.

I dream of The Foundation Stone™ as a wall-smashing mallet. We can ask all our questions, we can learn how to overcome fears, deal with resentments and expand our horizons beyond any of the walls of this world. There are no walls that cannot be broken. There is no better way to gain from the fast of The Tenth of Tevet, which remembers the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, than to swing the pick-axe of thought and discovery to smash any walls that would imprison us.

This week’s Music of Halacha, Nehemiah & The History of Muktzah, is another attempt at demolishing Halacha as a barrier so that we can appreciate its challenge, direction, and opportunities.

I wish you a fast that will help you become a wall-smasher.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg

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