So... this summer I've begun embracing my inner crafter, which dovetails nicely with Mommy Camp. I picked up a small side table off of Facebook Marketplace (a rabbit hole of possibilities) and have been working on repainting it and jazzing it up a bit. (You can see the beginnings of this project in the photograph above.) I was painting it on my front stoop while watching my kids ride their bikes up and down the sidewalk. Yaakov took a break for a moment and on his way into the house complimented my work as "kinda awesome". Those two unsolicited words - that compliment went straight from his mouth to my heart. I still hear those words now as I type them.
Tonight is Rosh Chodesh Av, beginning the 9 days leading us to our national day of mourning, Tisha b'Av- we are mourning for our Holy Temples, mourning for all the horrible events of our history and most of all mourning our lack of connection with G-d.
Sometimes it's hard to mourn something we do not understand - like the destruction of the Holy Temples and what they meant in Jewish life... but we can understand how it's possible to see why they were destroyed. Our Rabbis teach us that they were destroyed because of 'sinat chinam' - baseless hatred. What a strange concept in some ways - how could one person hate another person without reason? I would point to social media to help us understand... tolerance for someone else's ideas is at a minimum... commenting using words that would never be used in real life to someone's actual face happens all the time... hurling and accusing others of horrible things are common place. 'Sinat chinam' is a "normal" occurrence on social media.
The Holy Temple - the singular focus of all Jews could no longer stand as a symbol of unity when 'sinat chinam' (baseless hatred) ran rampant - so G-d destroyed it.
We learn that every generation that is unable to rebuilt the Temple is just like the generation that destroyed it. In other words, the terrible situation of 'sinat chinam', of baseless hatred, still exists. We have to take this sinat chinam and flip it on it's head and create a situation of 'ahavat chinam' - baseless love. We have to love each other without wondering what is in it for us. What will we gain by showing love for another person? That is the wrong attitude - we love because the person in front of us is a Creation by our Creator. G-d loves them just as much as G-d loves us. "Love your neighbor as yourself". We don't love ourselves for particular reasons... just as much as we don't shouldn't need a reason to love our neighbor.
So what's the first step? I would say the first step to creating 'ahavat chinam' - baseless love, is to give compliments freely. When my son Yaakov said two words "kinda awesome" about my creative endeavor, he created a connection with me that wasn't there before. He gave me a good feeling. Love is created by giving to another person, not by taking.
Here we are at the beginning of the 9 days leading to Tisha b'Av - let's spend our time during these days handing out compliments to family, friends and strangers for no reason other that to make that other person feel good. G-d willing, perhaps Tisha b'Av this year will be a joyous holiday instead of a day of mourning. Please G-d.