Av Week 2: Not Hating Those We Hate

This Saturday night and Sunday Tisha b’Av is observed. This day marks the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. It is a day of mourning that is traditionally observed with a full fast and chanting the Book of Lamentations.

Tradition teaches that the Temples were destroyed because people’s hatred toward each other caused the Divine Presence to flee, leaving the Temple vulnerable to attack.

The lessons of Tisha b’Av shout at us during these times:

Hatred destroys.

Hateful speech inspires hate filled action. Hatred annihilates understanding, connection and relationship.

And, even so, I find it difficult these days not to hate. The rage I feel towards those in power espousing violent and hateful rhetoric and those in power who do nothing to condemn this vitriol is overwhelming, as is the anger and sadness I feel in the face of the violence and destruction that is a daily occurrence. I find it difficult not to hate, even as I know the hatred poisons my soul.

The psalmist calls out: In my time of distress I seek the One. I lift my hands, I weep all night without respite. My soul will not be comforted. —Psalm 77:3

At times there is no comfort. This season of Tisha b’Av implores us not to allow devastation, anger and pain to solidify into hatred. The season urges us to cultivate radical empathy and radical kindness, to strive to see the humanity in all so we can be a force for goodness and love.

It can difficult to turn from rage and hatred toward empathy and kindness, so we practice.

What follows is a suggestion for practice we can do during these times:

Setting aside time to pause each day, we sit with the intention of cultivating radical empathy and compassion.

Closing our eyes and resting the attention gently on the breath, we call to our hearts/minds three people we love easily and fully and we say for each of them in turn:

May you be blessed with love.

May you be blessed with goodness

May you be blessed with peace.

Then we call to mind three people we might encounter in a day: colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances, and we say for each of them in turn:

May you be blessed with love.

May you be blessed with goodness

May you be blessed with peace.

We then consider the trees we live among, the plants, skies and waters that sustain us, and we say to each of them in turn:

May you be blessed with love.

May you be blessed with goodness

May you be blessed with peace.

After this, we call to mind the young children and grandchildren of the people who inspire our hatred and rage and we say to three of these children in turn:

May you be blessed with love.

May you be blessed with goodness

May you be blessed with peace.

We close the meditation by saying:

May all beings be blessed with love.

May all beings be blessed with goodness.

May all beings be blessed with peace.

In the face of sadness, pain, rage and grief, let us call forth our great capacity to love. Let us act with radical kindness. Let us be agents for compassion and goodness.

Let our words and actions:

Call forth sacred dignity to dwell in our land.

May loving kindness and truth meet.

May justice and peace embrace . —Psalm 85:10-11

With blessings and love to all.

Rabbi Yael Levy
7 Av 5779