To All Our Friends-

Life is so full of ironies, so many hills and valleys. We are disappointed one minute and in the blink of an eye, we are elevated to lofty heights. We cry tears of sadness and before the tears have dried, we begin an outpouring of tears of joy.

I can honestly say that unfortunately, until this year, I have NEVER experienced a real meaningful 3 weeks of mourning preceeding Tisha B'av (the date commemorating (memorializing) the destruction of the 1st & 2nd Temples), or the 9 days preceeding Tisha B'av (a time frame that is meant to evoke even more sadness and longing for the reuilding of our Temple in Jerusalem-speedily in our days)),or even a Tisha B'av itself. Perhaps we live in a time where are hearts are simply hardened to a point where we are calloused to the suffering of others. Perhaps, life has simply been too good for us to even fathom the pain that others feel. And perhaps that is simply what it means to be in galut (exile).

G-d said to B'nai Yisroel (the children of Israel) in the dessert when they chose to "cry" about their fate and expressed fear that they would be killed if they tried to conquer Israel, that 'because you cried on this day (the 9th of Av) for no reason, in the future you will cry on this day (the 9th of Av) for a very good reason' . That "very good reason for crying" was the destruction of both the 1st and 2nd Temples on that very day.

It is very difficult (and in some cases dangerous) to not be a learned jew, yet voice an opinion about jewish thought. Let me therefore preface the discussion with saying these are my thoughts alone and "do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Management (with a capital "m")" I do hope that what I am about to say is in line with traditional jewish thought and is not in any way offensive.

What has occurred to me is that not only does G-d want us not to cry unnecessarily (by showing a complete lack of faith in Him), but G-d just as much wants us to cry  when crying is appropriate.
(I believe our sages have said that 'he who crys over the destruction of the Temple will merit to see its rebuiding , and conversely, he who does not cry over the destruction of the Temple will not merit to see its rebuilding). So what does G-d do? You cry inappropriately, G-d makes things happen that cause you to cry appropriately. Similarly, it appears to me, if we don't cry at appropriate times (destruction of our holiest sites (the two Temples), what is happening in modern day Israel, etc.), then G-d will give us something that will indeed make us cry and awaken us to the suffering of others....and this is a good thing!

Living our lives as robots, waking up, going to work or school, watching TV, going to bed, day after day is not "living" our lives. But I defy anyone to spend an hour either visiting the sick, rallying for Israel, volunteering at your child's school or your synagogue or church, or visiting our dear son Ari, without being transformed, without regaining some of that sensitivity and empathy G-d wants us to feel.

So, to borrow a phrase from Passover, how is this Tisha B'av different from all other Tisha B'avs? Hopefully, we are different people this year. The apathy for human suffering, that I, and perhaps others have felt in year's past, has changed to empathy. I know from the outpouring of kindness the Grashins have been recipients of, that there is not a person who receives this letter that has not shed a tear of sadness, a tear of joy and a tear of hope for the continued speedy recovery of a person who has touched your hearts. Do we all wish that we could have obtained that same empathy from an ordeal less profound? Of course, but that doesn't change the ordeal, nor the lesson that we all have to take away from the ordeal; and that is what I started out this message with, namely "Life is so full of ironies, so many hills and valleys. We are disappointed one minute and in the blink of an eye, we are elevated to lofty heights. We cry tears of sadness and before the tears have dried, we begin an outpouring of tears of joy."

So what has caused me to take a one paragragh update letter about Ari's condition and turn it into the above "novel"?

I opened up my e-Mail this morning and read again about the passing of a dear friend, Chaviva Englesberg, zt"l. Tears of profound sadness begin to well up in my eyes as I recall what an incredible "aishes chayil (women of valor)" she was. She leaves a husband (Rabbi Engelsberg was a teacher in Seattle who literally changed the lives of hundreds of young students and dozens of adults in our community), 3 small children, and parents. Yet, before the tears have dried, the phone rings and Ari's oncologist is on the line. Yesterday, they performed Ari's first MRI since 1)the Gamma Knife procedure and 2)his starting his new chemo and, thank G-d, no new lesions appeared and the tumor has apparently shrunk. While this does not mean Ari is cured (we will continue to do monthly MRI's to monitor his progress and pray for such), it does mean that for this day, this Shabbat, this week, these nine days and three weeks and for this Tisha B'av I will have many tears. I guess the tears will be a combination of sadness for all our losses and of those not yet dried tears for Chaviva, along with the tears of joy (may we continue to hear such news) surrounding Ari, and finally some tears of optimism...a potent combination. And so that is how this Tisha b'av will be different for me. I hope, maybe in a small way, your relationship with, and prayers for Ari will help you experience Tisha B'av a little differently, and with more meaning, as well, so that perhaps we will all merit to see the rebuilding of the Temple, speedily in our days.

Again, thanks for your continued prayers. Because of them, you are all a major part of this good news we received today-

Shabbat Shalom and love from the Grashins