Join our email list

Why Isn’t Tisha B’Av Working?

The following is a transcript of Episode 55 of the For Heaven’s Sake Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors. 

Donniel: My name is Donniel Hartman and I’m the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute. And this is For Heaven’s Sake, a podcast from the Hartman Institute’s iEngage project. Our theme for today is national repair. Why Tisha B’Av, our holiday of national repair, isn’t working. 

In each edition of For Heaven’s Sake, Yossi Klein Halevi, senior research fellow at the Institute here in Jerusalem, and myself discuss a current issue central to Israel in the Jewish world. And then Elana Stein Hain, director of the Hartman faculty in North America explores with us how classical Jewish sources can enrich our understanding of the issue. Today Elana is on vacation and won’t be joining us. Yossi, pleasure to be with you. 

Yossi: Always Donniel. 

Donniel: Let’s begin. The Jewish calendar contains multiple fast days, but two which are most prominent.

The first is Yom Kippur. And while in ancient Israel, that day focused on collective atonement. Under the influence of the rabbinic tradition, Yom Kippur shifted to being a day principally about individual Jews, repentance, and giving an accounting of their behavior to God and thinking about who they wanna be in the year that is about to come.

The second is a historical fast day. Less widely observed outside of the Orthodox community. That day is Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, which begins this week. That day commemorates the destruction of the two temples, the exile from the land, and a whole litany of other tragic events that befell the Jewish.

Tisha B’Av is the day of national reckoning with our collective sins and failures as distinct from Yom Kippur. In both biblical and rabbinic Judaism there’s a clear connection between the moral behavior of the Jewish people and our right, our variability to remain in the land of Israel. The message of Tisha B’Av is that our national sovereignty is conditional on our willingness and capacity to change and build a society worthy of perpetuating. 

And so the rabbi sought answers to the question. What was the fatal sin of the Jewish people that led to the destruction of the temple and the exile of Israel from our land? Why have prior attempts at Jewish sovereignty failed? 

The most famous answer, which actually also turned into a slogan is sinat chinam, baseless or senseless hatred amongst Jews. The move behind this idea is that Jewish societies are most threatened by dangers from within and not dangers from without. In Israel we’re entering, as you all know what is already shaping up to be a remarkably ugly and divisive election, where expressions of sinat chinam, baseless senseless hatred infuse the campaign rhetoric and are become, and are irregular occurrence. 

Clearly, no matter how often we piously repeat the warning against sinat chinam, the rabbinic contention of encouraging collective introspection, it just isn’t working. Instead, our observance of Tisha B’Av pays lip service to the notion of national repentance, but we’re not engaging in it. Why then isn’t Tisha B’Av working?

And this is not a theoretical question, Yossi, about Tisha B’Av for me. It’s like, we need the pentance, like how do we, why aren’t we accessing this corrective tool that our tradition offers to us, because we need it. Is the very idea of national self-reckoning incompatible with a notion of a thriving nation? Could successful countries do self-reckoning or is it only when you’ve actually, uh, failed? Is part of the problem that the concept of sinat chinam, or baseless hatred, is actually not that relevant? 

Because what happens when what we really feel is that the only one whose hatred is baseless are the hatred which is direct towards me, never the hatred that I direct towards others. The Jewish people know how to celebrate its moments of joy and also mourn our tragedies. But Tisha B’Av is asking us to mourn as a means of preventing future tragedy. How realistic is that expectation? And if Tisha B’Av isn’t working, how do we encourage a culture of collective introspection in our increasingly polarized society? And that’s really where I wanna focus, Yossi.

We’re not gonna do a deep dive today into Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av is about national self-reckoning. But it’s right around the corner and the gap between the rhetoric and the reality is just too great. And I think we’re, we’re harming ourselves. And by the way, that’s not just in our society, in many other societies, they just don’t have Tisha B’Av to talk about.

Why, do you have any idea? What’s your feeling why Tisha B’Av, or why this idea of national reckoning is so difficult to put in into motion?

Yossi: You know, I, um, it’s, it’s funny because, uh, on my way to work today, uh, I passed, uh, a whole row of posters on the street. Sinat chinam, baseless hatred is the root of all sins in the Torah, three exclamation marks.

I wanna focus on those three exclamation marks because if this was self-evident, one exclamation mark might be enough. 

This, this notion of shouting because that’s the written equivalent of shouting, is three exclamation marks. So there’s something we’re, we’re protesting too much. It’s not working. And I was standing there looking at this sign saying, why isn’t it speaking to me? I’m as concerned as the next Israeli about the divisions in our society, but what, what is it about this language? 

And, and, and I think that that to go back 2000 years, to go back to the destruction of our sovereignty, our failure, the last time we were our here in this land, because that was really the rabbinic project to imbue in us this sense of, I think almost in anticipation, get ready, one day you’re going to come back. Don’t forget why you lost this sovereignty the last time. 

And this is the moment now. And so we’ve inherited this language, which worked for 2000 years in exile. And now that we have sovereignty, it’s not working. And for me, what’s missing there is the question of what was really the root problem of why we lost national sovereignty? Was it hatred among Jews or was it something else? And my answer is zealotry and that’s a historical fact.

We, the, the revolt against Rome, which, which deeply divided the Jewish people was not at all a unified effort. It was led by zealots who acted the way zealots do, they murdered their opponents. And so is the root problem hatred of your opponents, or is that an expression of a deeper problem? The deeper problem is zealotry.

Donniel: So I, I want you to expand on that. Sinat chinam, is, it’s just not the story.

Yossi: Sinat chinam is an emotion. It’s an emotional response. 

Donniel: It’s an emotional response, it’s not, and it, and what, and what we know, it’s, it’s an attempt to hijack or it’s like not hijack to take a, we call it a Hebrew to take a tremp on what is that to hitchhike, to hitchhike on something for some great idea. But the fact is that wasn’t the pro, so it, it doesn’t work because it doesn’t ring authentic.

Yossi: I, when we look at our situation today, and in some sense, we’re back where we were 2000 years ago, we are deeply divided. We’re facing overwhelming security challenges.

And the question is really, what’s most troubling Israeli society? Now, yes, the hatred that’s being expressed and that, that you noted is coming out, especially now, uh, during the election season is deeply disturbing. But what is the root of the problem here? The root to my mind is fanaticism, political fanaticism. And so hatred of your opponents is a consequence of zealotry.

Donniel: But we’re not really attacking the problem.

Yossi: Right. That’s right. 

Donniel: And when, and actually, if I think about what you said, if, if the root is fanaticism, the essence of fanaticism is to give legitimacy to your hatred. So, so when you’re like, who are you even talking to this,

Yossi: It’s even worse than that, Donniel, because if you are a fanatic and you are so embedded in your ideology, then your hatred of your opponent is not baseless. 

Donniel: Of course, that’s the whole idea. That’s what I mean. You always have, the fanatic never has baseless hatred. So what happens is, is that the language is, is number one, i’s not indicative of the experience. And in fact, if the problem is fanaticism and I want to come to deal with that a little more deeply in a moment, it’s irrelevant. 

Because it’s, then the people who don’t hate are kvetching about the fanatics who have an ideology of promulgating, not hatred, but promulgating their belief system, regardless of the consequences. 

Yossi: And they’re telling the rest of us, listen, we’re trying to save, we’re trying to save the country. And you’re telling me not to hate the people who are trying to destroy the country.

Donniel: We’re not focusing on the problem. What you’re saying is that there’s a deeper problem. And when you’re not focusing on the problem, don’t be surprised that you don’t have the national transformation.

I wanna shift it a little bit, before coming back to your point. I think there’s something more structural about it. Not ideological. I’m gonna be structuralist, I’m gonna leave you to be conceptual and ideological and I’ll be structural. We’ll reverse roles this time. Um, by the way, to our listeners, this is the first time we are, we’re sitting in the new Hartman Institute studio. 

Yossi: It’s a real studio

Donniel: It’s actually, it’s a real room. Up till now, all of our podcasts have been done where we’ve been in separate rooms. This is the first time we’re sitting next to each other.

Yossi: And it really feels different Donniel.

Donniel: You feel different?

Yossi: Absolutely. 

Donniel: Let’s find out what they feel. Maybe they’ll think we liked each other better when we were, we were miles away and only saw each other on the computer. That’ll be interesting. um, but this is, this is good. Um, but I wanna do something, um, more structural in the sense.

I wonder how societies who are successful engage in, um, in self-reflection and self-correction. In our tradition, Maimonides says never waste a tragedy. Whether you cause that, whether, whatever the root cause, a tragedy is a moment for introspection. But it means that when you’re comfortable and successful, it’s very, very hard to, to worry about the danger that’s coming tomorrow. 

And I think one of the great successes of Israel is that we’re just too successful to actually really be worried. I don’t think anybody in Israel is worried about the destruction of our society. And even more than that, as a people, we are so trained to defend ourselves from the outside in.

That’s Israeli society. That’s why we have a huge, unbelievably powerful military and a mediocre fifth-rate police force because our problems are never the inside. They’re always on the outside. And here you’re asking a country which is marching forward, marching forward. To come along and to say, excuse me, you don’t realize you’re about to go over the cliff. You’re about to do something. And I don’t think people fully internalize the dangers that we’re facing. 

And I think that if you don’t internalize them, it’s impossible to go through a process of reflection and self-improvement, and it’s almost as if Israel, we could only do Tisha B’Av after a destruction.

Yossi: Well, you know, it’s interesting, Donniel, I don’t know if you remember the first Tisha B’Av after the Rabin assassination. And there was a sense of Tisha B’Av.

Donniel: That was the day, but we can’t, see that. 

Yossi: And we couldn’t sustain it.

Donniel: You couldn’t.

Yossi: Do you remember? There were, there were public panels and,

Donniel: Panels. And we were, and it lasted for years.

Yossi: and it was beautiful.

Donniel: It was beautiful. Cause we, we realized, but do we need someone else to die? This is what, right now the rhetoric that we’re using in our political discourse is a rhetoric, which ju, but for the grace of God, people aren’t killing each other. But they’re not. And the country is still strong. And the question is can Israel or any society for that matter embody a process in which it asks, what do I have to change the day before the constitutional crisis.

Like I feel it sometimes very often when I speak with my friends now in the United States who are looking at a future in America and we’re not. And as like it’s it’s as a train wreck about to happen and they could see it, they’re frightened of it. But the notion that there’s something that I could do now before the train wreck will happen before the next, there’s nothing I could do, it’ll just have to happen. It might have to get that worse. And only if it gets that worse, will there be any chance for maybe new forces to come to come forth? 

But Israel, Israel’s not strong. We’re, we’re a small little people. Our existence is too precarious to say, okay, yes, we have to wait for, to go over the cliff for us to, so what do you think, let’s go to pragmatic for a second? Do you have any, like how could we institute, because sinat chinam isn’t working, senseless hatred, we’re wasting our time. What could we do to avoid what you and I believe could be a difficult train wreck?

Yossi: Look, national self-reckoning is part of our DNA. That’s the expectation of what the Jewish people is supposed to do. And it’s a self expectation. So, we have the day, we have the framework, what’s not working is the content and look, and that takes several expressions. Do we really mourn the destruction of the temple today? Do we really mourn the loss of our national sovereignty when we’re sitting in rebuilt Jerusalem?

Donniel: And also, like, we’re used to faking on this day. It’s like the whole day is a fake day.

Yossi: You know? Can I tell you one,

Donniel: It’s like the whole thing is fake. It’s a great, it’s a great, 

Yossi: Can I tell you one, a story? Can I tell you my, my, my, Tisha B’Av story? Summer of 1967, my first trip to Israel immediately after the Six-Day War and I’m living with my religious cousins. And one of my cousins says to me, it’s over. We won. There’s no reason to fast anymore. So we went out and the two of us bought full offers. That was my first conscious violation of Halakah I, in my life. I was a Yeshiva boy. And it happened on Tisha B’Av. So I have a very complicated relationship with Tisha B’Av. 

Since then I, I do fast. I’m not always sure what I’m fasting about. After the Rabin assassination, it was clear, you know, and, and so we have this framework to fall back on, but your question is so important. How do we use Tisha B’Av, not in response to a tragedy, but to preempt, to preempt tragedy, and this, again, the language of sinat chinam isn’t working, uh, mourning the destruction of our sovereignty and of the temple isn’t working and hasn’t worked for years.

So what’s the content that we can fill here? And, and here I, I, I come back to, to where we began with the question of our mutually exclusive certainties. And this is what frightens me most about Jewish discourse about the Jewish people, is that in some ways, our best quality is our worst quality, and the Torah, you know, the Torah calls us a stiff neck people and it’s not meant to be a compliment. 

We, we think it’s a compliment because that’s, that’s how we survived over the years. But now that we have sovereignty, we’re stiff-necked against each other. And so how do we start turning around some of these concepts that are so deep in us and that not only have lost their vitality, but in some ways are working against us. 

Donniel: Right. It’s very interesting. Um, I wanna go back. I wanna expand on it. Um, Tisha B’Av isn’t working because the reality is the whole thing is fake. We’re not mourning the temple. We’re not mourning our loss of sovereignty. We’re not worried about senseless hatred. So with the whole, this whole day, which is a day that we actually need. It’s just we’re, we’re not talking straight about what it is that we need to talk about. And by the way, what makes it even harder is the fact that it happens in the summer because we’re like on vacation mode.

So if you, so if you’re gonna do fake, it’s like, you know, okay. Like half of Israel is gonna fast on Tisha B’Av, or the observants are, while they’re on vacation. I I’m gonna be fasting on Tisha B’Av in Crete. Like in my, in this, in

Yossi: You know where it works, Donniel. It works in Jewish summer camps. 

Donniel: It’s so, exactly. 

Yossi: Educationally. It’s beautiful. 

Donniel: It’s it’s like, what would summer camps do without Tisha B’Av, it’s like, it’s, it’s the only place, but so, but part of what we need to do, and this is part of the whole national story, it’s about getting real.

It’s using our tradition, but it’s cutting out the I don’t know what word I’m allowed to use, but the, the falsities. 

Yossi: We’ll use our imagination.

Donniel: We’ll use your imagination, but cutting out the, whatever you might want to, right, like, um, just because at the stake is too important. If you wanna claim people’s time, like Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana, they started at the beginning of the year.  As we’re about to start the year. 

And it’s so natural to say I’m about to, you know, I just came off of the, of a, of it last year and the summer week, I’m starting a new year. Who do I wanna be? Who do I wanna be? If you wanna claim people’s attention in the middle of the summer, we have to start getting real.

And then we have to start. Let’s talk about what you said. We have to start talking about if, if, if, about fanaticism, if fanaticism, it’s not senseless hatred, it’s not senseless hatred. If fanaticism is something, then how do we create movements in which this type of discourse, instead of being mainstream you’re, by the way, you’re never gonna influence the fanatics.

You’re not, I’m, I’m not fasting on Tisha B’Av to kvetch about the fanatics. That’s like, you know, I need it’s it’s about asking. And it’s not even about asking how do I remove the fanaticism within me? Because the truth is most people aren’t fanatics, but at the same time we tolerate fanaticism. We tolerate it. We build coalitions with it within it. We haven’t set forth clearly what our red lines are. What are our red lines as a society? And if Tisha B’Av would be a red line conversation, like, what are your red line? What is the things that you can’t do?

Yossi: Or the things you can’t say?

Donniel: Or the things that you can’t say, or the people who you shouldn’t be building your coalitions with this type of conversation just doesn’t really exist. And in Israel, actually, you know, when it does exist, anytime someone says, oh, you can’t sit with him. They say, oh, but you’re sitting, each side has its so-called beyond its red lines. And then those red lines expand. And where would the lines of fanaticism for you, where, where would you locate them? Knowing fully well that I’m speaking to an ex fanatic.

Yossi: Yes. Yeah. I, I come by this conversation, honestly.

Uh I, um, you know, for me, and as, as, as for you, our Jewish tent is very big. It’s very broad. But it isn’t limitless. And where I draw the line is on the one hand, those who would use our tradition to encourage hatred and racism and violence against the innocent. And we actually have a party that is running, and if Netanyahu wins, that party will be in the coalition, for the first time, we will have an openly racist party, a party that supports violence against innocence sitting in the government. That’s one side of the red line. 

The other side is uh, organized Jewish attempts to destroy the Jewish state. And so on the one hand, it’s the enemies of democracy. And on the other hand, it’s the enemies of the Jewish identity of the state. And again, I think one has to be careful about not applying those two definitions broadly. One has to be very specific about how to apply them. Uh, but in this election, uh, what we have is one camp that has embraced the party that is the legitimate historical successor to our ancient zealots.

Donniel: So one, you know, it’s, as I listen to you, this type of conversation is not happening in Israel. 

Yossi: No.

Donniel: Do you know what’s happening? We’re shouting at each other. But we’re not having a serious conversation about who are the fanatics that you’re not willing to sit with. Don’t legitimize your fanatics, cause you’re saying, oh, you’re sitting with a fanatic. Cause that’s the, that’s the just, look at you.

You’re sitting with Mansour Abbas, as if Mansour Abbas is a fanatic or whatever it is, but like that’s, that’s, that’s the argument. We’re not, we need a healthy conversation in Israel about our red lines and it, that in many ways is the great gift of sovereignty. 

The gift of sovereignty and of power is that you could do good and you could also do harm and, you know, outside of Israel or in the diaspora, like boundaries aren’t that critical. Like the truth is we wanna be as inclusive as we can because we don’t wanna lose people. And, and the consequences, you know, our colleague Tal Becker very often says that, you know, when, when he’s traveling in the United States and people are attacking and around, he’s saying ladies and gentlemen, I wanna remind you, that at this moment, while we’re talking, the future of peace in the middle east is not being determined. So you can loosen some of

Yossi: In Boca Raton. That’s his favorite,

Donniel: In Boca Raton. It’s not, right here, right now, we can relax. So if I talk to you or you’re beyond, the consequences aren’t critical. The consequences of who our government, is gonna, are critical. These are critical issues. This is not, you know, this, this is gonna change the life and the direction of the country for at least a year because that’s as long as governments last in Israel, but this actually, next government could last a little longer and then God help us.

So a much more serious conversation about our fanatics and, and very often, you know what we like to assume. Again, it’s part of our whole culture of seeing the enemy from the outside, that we say that, oh, I know that’s what he says, or she says, but they don’t really mean it. Right. They’re not really that bad when push comes to, so we, we moderate our fanatics until they actually kill someone. 

Yossi: We moderate the fanatics on our side. 

Donniel: On our side until actually something might happen. And as a result, I don’t think we take seriously the consequence of words. What happens when, so it could be, I’m not saying that Itamar Ben Gvir is a murderer. Chas V’shalom. He’s not. I’m not saying that, and I’m not, and he will more or less function within the law, but what are the consequences of the words and the language he says, and the poison that he spews and places into Israeli society. And these are issues that are, we have to think about that and give an accounting for it.

So one, a serious discourse about fanaticism is what Israeli society needs. And creating the coalitions in many ways, the coalition that we are now mourning, cause you and I both loved, it was a coalition which said we wanna leave fanatics outside, but they never really articulated what was positive and distinct. And they knew who they didn’t wanna, they didn’t want BiBi. They didn’t want Ben Gvir, but they didn’t articulate a conceptual notion of what is our, who are our lines and why yes and why no.

Yossi: Right. And the right wing critics of the government didn’t make a distinction between Monsour Abbas who accepted Israel as a Jewish state and the United Arab List, which does not. And so for me, 

Donniel: So it was Arabs and Arabs.

Yossi: Yeah, exactly. Monsour Abbas has become a legitimate part of the Israeli political system, a legitimate part of the coalition and the United Arab list is not a legitimate coalition partner, but we’re not even having those conversations. 

Donniel: We’re not. And here, you know, the, the Jewish valuing of memory actually serves us very poorly here because here we are remembering not the destruction of the temple alone, but every single thing, negative, that somebody said throughout their history.

So now a person gets up and says, I know I said that then, but now I, no, we don’t let you change your mind. Like here, here it is, we’re in this tradition which is about repentance and about change and about re-evaluating. We’re making sure that this person stays the way they were and whatever they said forever and ever and ever.

Yossi: And the internet, of course, only aggravates that because it’s permanent. 

Donniel: Because you have access to it. It’s everything is permanent. 

There’s one other feature for me, which is inherent to fanaticism, which, I wanna add to it. You, you spoke about the people who are promulgating, either violence against innocence or violence against the state of Israel as the two boundaries. 

For me, fanaticism begins with certainty. Fanatics are certain, like, I, I have opinions about. I think you do too. Right? I have opinions. I was raised that way. I was raised, my Shabbos table, you were asked my, Abba, Zichrona L’Bracha, um, would ask a question and you had to have an opinion. And the worst, like you didn’t know what he was gonna say. 

There were people there, the family, there were guests and he wanted a meaningful conversation and there was an issue he was thinking about and he would throw a question and he would say, like, Donniel, what do you think about? And you had to have an opinion.

And the, and, and, and, and the sin, the Cardinal sin was either to say, I don’t know, or even worse, 

Yossi: I don’t care

Donniel: Oh, I, no, that wasn’t, that was, that was for the rebellious. That was for the wicked child. Yhat I was, I was the good boy. The wicked child would never, that would even be worse. I don’t care. But the worst, worst thing would be to say something not meaningful.

That would be like, you’re like, you’re dirt. Like if you had something. So I was trained that I have to have an opinion about everything. So I have opinions to kazoo, but I, what I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, is that I say this all the time. I know what it is that I know. But I never claim that, that, which I know is true.

And when I say this to my students, like they look at me like, yeah, I say, I’m gonna tell you, like, I’m not claiming truth. and I’m telling you what I think, now you have to think about it. I’m just gonna share with you what I’ve thought about. I wanna share with you the conclusions that I’ve reached for now, and I might change them soon, but here, I’m not standing before you advocating a truth that you have to accept.

I’m, I’m advocating for an idea and this culture of conversation, both in Israel and you see it also in North America, so many places around the world that to have an opinion is to have the truth. And how do we advocate for, or develop a conversation, you know, imagine an Israeli politician who would be discussing something with a interviewer or with another politician who would ask them a question and they would say, hmm. I didn’t think about that. Or thank you, you know, I changed my mind or. 

You can’t even admit today that you make it made a mistake. You can’t even, you can’t even say yes, what I said then was wrong. That’s, no, that’s weak. And so what happens is, is the culture of conversation is fanaticism grows when you are holding onto this notion of a singular truth. That this notion of these, and these are the words of the living God, so central to our tradition has, has to enter into this culture.

Yossi: You know, I, I sense two contradictory trends in Israeli society. On the one hand, um, this is expressed, uh, in the difference, say between Israeli and American polls, if you look at an American poll, the number of no opinion tends to be pretty high, 10%, 15%. Look at an Israeli poll, 1%, 0.5%. 

And at the same time, beneath the surface, there’s a restlessness, a fluidity, and you see it there. You know, there are certain people who, for me are emblematic of the fluid nature of Israeli discourse, people who, who started on the left and then shifted rightward, people who were diehard secularists and, and moved in a religious direction or the opposite.

Beneath the surface we are a very restless generation and the certainty of the fanatics is in some way, not true to the experience of the Jewish people in this time.

Donniel: This is, you know this is really, it’s, the, the amount of people who you meet in your family. You encounter people who disagree with you, you encounter family members who had one experience and changed. People who were religious and who are no longer religious. People who were right-wing, who moved to center, who moved to left. People who are center, who, who are left, who now the, the shifts in, in are,

Yossi: It’s all over the map

Donniel: All over the map. And it’s not only over the map. They are your friends. They’re your family. You see them, you know, there were these polls. I think Pew used to speak about how the real religions, denominations in America are no longer, you know, it’s are you liberal or are you conservative? They’re your friends. 

It’s like you’re, there is this exclusive universe where all you meet is this group. And then in each group, you probably’ll get your own truth. Here there is a tremendous amount of fluidity, but at the same time, it’s not expressing itself. 

Yossi: No, it’s not coming out. 

Donniel: Nobody, it’s not coming out. There’s something stuck. And I think part of what’s stuck is this notion, there’s this fascination with this language of truth. We want somebody who, who will speak in a certain way, even though we know it’s much more complicated. So why are people voting and getting stuck when they themselves are so fluid is, is, uh, no changes are taking place in the poll, so it’s, it’s an interesting paradox of Israeli society.

Yossi: Donniel, maybe what we need to get back to really your seminal question today, is, is, 

Donniel: What was my seminal question? 

Yossi: My interpretation of your seminal question is what do we do with this powerful structure that we’ve inherited called Tisha B’Av? This self-expectation of a national self-reckoning. How do we make this real? Maybe Tisha B’Av needs to be the day of embracing uncertainty.

Making space for the legitimacy of doubt, whether it’s political, whether it’s religious, across the spectrum. We’re a generation that is living after the greatest shattering that the Jewish people has experienced, on the one hand. And the greatest fulfillment on the other. 

We are so disoriented that in some ways, there, there is a natural tendency to cling to certainty and fanaticism, because how do you make sense of what the Jewish people has experienced over the last hundred years?

And so maybe the time has come to say, you know what, it’s understandable that we responded with this strong ideology after the Shoah, and the creation of Israel. 

Donniel: We needed it. We were, 

Yossi: We needed it.

Donniel: We needed to claim something. 

Yossi: It’s not working for us anymore. Maybe now we need to just take a deep breath and say, okay, in some ways we’re a shattered, a broken people, in other ways, we’re a victorious people and really we’re schizophrenic, we’re torn between those two experiences.

Donniel: So maybe then Tisha B’Av, to bring this all to a close, instead of talking about senseless hatred and having all these panels and these conversations about hatred, maybe this is a day in which we have to start modeling a different type of ideological discourse. 

Let’s, let’s actually, don’t talk about, let’s talk about your truths, 

Yossi: That’s it, that’s it. 

Donniel: Let’s and this is the day in which we, we give birth to a different culture of conversation start it on Tisha B’Av, start it the three weeks beforehand, lead it up into Yom Kippur. And then maybe the culmination is Rabin’s death, which is a few weeks after, um, right after the holiday season. That there is almost a period in which we live the Israel and the culture that we want to have. And then maybe that will start. 

That’s also the schools. They don’t know what to do. They don’t, Tisha B’Av, they’re not there. And then Rabin’s death, they don’t know what to do with like, I don’t wanna commemorate the killing. It’s not about that. It’s about having conversation about existentially significant issues without claiming certainty.

Yossi: Imagine public conversations around the country where politicians and journalists or, or amcha, ordinary people speak about this is, this is where I was wrong. I really believed this.

Donniel: What I believed in I no longer. 

Yossi: That, and so then Tisha B’Av then becomes an expression of a shattering, which is what the day is supposed to be. But it’s a shattering of certainties that I held and it’s an opening for a kind of softness.

Donniel: Then it becomes a real day instead of a fake day. 

Yossi: Then I can hear you.

Donniel: Then it becomes a real day. 

Yossi: Then it’s a real day. I think we got somewhere. 

Donniel: Yeah. Thank you very much, Yossi. 

Yossi: Thank you. 

Donniel: It’s wonderful, wonderful to be with you. 

Yossi: Same

Donniel: For Heaven’s Sake is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institute. It was produced by David Zvi Kalman and edited by M. Louis Gordon. Transcripts of our show are now available on our website typically a week after an episode airs. To find them and to learn more about the Shalom Hartman Institute, visit us online at We wanna know what you think about the show you can read and review us on iTunes to help more people discover the show. 

You can also write to us at [email protected]. Subscribe to our show in the apple podcast app, Spotify, SoundCloud, audible, and everywhere else podcasts are available.

We’re going to take a few weeks’ break in this Israeli European month of August. And we’ll come back to be with you in, in a number of weeks towards the end of the month. Thank you Yossi, and to all our listeners, thank you so much for listening to us.

Yossi: Thank you.

More on
Join our email list


The End of Policy Substance in Israel Politics