Between 300 and 350 people walked into and out of Teaneck’s Cong. Rinat Israel last Thursday, as Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, spent the morning expounding upon the meaning of Tisha B’Av.
The rabbi used his annual Tisha B’Av lecture to speak about the lessons of Tisha B’Av, and how the day of mourning relates to the Jewish experience.
As many in attendance sat on small children’s chairs, leaned against walls, or spread out wherever they could find floor space, in keeping with the tradition of sitting close to or on the floor on the fast day, Weinreb said that the Jewish people’s suffering has been twofold on Tisha B’Av. He recalled not only past catastrophes such as the destruction of both Temples and the start of the Spanish Inquisition, but also contemporary tragedies such as Hezbollah’s rocket fire into Israel.
"It’s difficult to mourn the past because the present is so bad," he said. "Now we can see in real color and real time the rockets falling lives consumed in fire." This makes it that much harder to relate to the past, he added.
According to Rashi, Weinreb said later in the morning, there will come a point when God’s left hand, which represents judgment, will transform into His right hand, which represents mercy and that will bring the redemption of the Jewish people.
He finished by urging congregants to express their gratitude "early and often" for President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for their continued support of Israel’s war against Hezbollah. Jerusalem, Weinreb said, is the "lynchpin" of the Jewish people and without it, everything falls apart.
It was the first time Weinreb hosted his annual talk in Teaneck, he told The Jewish Standard. Rabbi Yosef Adler, Rinat Israel’s rabbi is on sabbatical, Weinreb said, which provided the OU an opportunity to offer their program without "displacing" the local rabbi.
The OU Webcasted Weinreb’s talk to organizational members around the world, including to countries such as Paraguay and Uruguay, said Stephen Steiner, the OU’s director of public relations. Weinreb began his broadcasted Tisha B’Av talks in ‘003 at the synagogue in Baltimore where he had previously served as a pulpit rabbi. The program, he said, gives synagogues the opportunity to experience an OU program and emphasizes that the OU is a national organization.
Weinreb wanted to get across to his audience the "continuity of the Jewish experience," he said. "We are part and parcel of our history," he said.
Terry Novetsky, the president of Rinat Israel, said that despite the 100-degree heat last Thursday, the turnout was excellent and the crowd overflowed into the synagogue’s halls. Novetsky was particularly impressed by Weinreb’s comments on the Holocaust, which focused on the tragedy of the community and the individual. Weinreb spoke about a group of doctors in the Warsaw Ghetto, who tried to bring something positive out of their terrible experiences by studying the hunger around them, said Novetsky.
Weinreb’s talk is available on the OU’s Website, www.ou.org.