We just finished the hard part of the year. I think the summer’s heat is an expression of human events, past and present, that happened this season. Summer feels like a period of extremes, fires are brighter and hotter, negative events seem more random and cruel, and memories are somehow keener, sharper. Spring is preparation, Autumn is winding down, winter is a time of reflection and resolution, and summer just “is.”
It is no wonder that criminologists have found violent crime rates rise in the summer. That has certainly been true of the crimes committed against Our People through the ages, from the Destruction of Both Temples to the Fall of Jerusalem. Snowfall has never stopped persistent barbarians, as shown by Hitler’s failed attempt to conquer Russia, but summer is the prime time wars have traditionally been waged, and the heat of the destruction is keener.
However, after the fast of the 9th of Av last Tuesday, we are leaving the period of morning, approaching the period of repentance that begins in a few weeks with the Hebrew month of Elul. So where are we now? Somewhere between devastation and repair.
We are approaching the 15th of Av, when the tribe of Benjamin was welcomed back into the fold of Israel and was reunited after a long and bitter controversy, the generation that rebelled against Moses stopped dying and regulations banning women from marrying into other tribes was relaxed.
There are other reasons we celebrate this day, which was also a day of betrothal in ages past, with women running joyfully into the fields. Each young woman wore white and chanted inviting words to encourage a young man to marry her.
We no longer dance in the fields, so we have to look for the inner meaning of this day. What is there between devastation and repair?
Reunion. We’ve accepted the penalty that has been exacted from us throughout history on the 9th of Av. Now it is time for our Father to pick us up in His arms, embrace us and reassure us that we are still His children, and always will be His children, regardless of the fact that yet another 9th of Av passed. Before we go and clean up the mess we made, we have to experience that embrace, that moment of reunion, which is what the 15th of Av is about.
As parents, we should ask ourselves, when we correct our children, do we uplift them first? Do we embrace them with words as well as with our arms and and remind them of that connection before we send them to clean up the spilled milk or apologize to their confused brother? As parents, it always helps to remember that small step, that Nechamu, that consolation before moving on to teshuvah and correction.
We can reprimand and correct, but we must embrace and connect before we can ever hope to give our children encouragement to improve.