The first tragedy to befall the Jewish People on Tishah b’Av was God’s decision that the generation that departed Egyptian slavery would wander the wilderness for forty years (Taanit 4:6). That harsh (if precisely calibrated) punishment was imposed in response to the faithless, defeatist report of the Israelite spies who, after 40 days of reconnaissance, still despaired of Israel’s ability to conquer the Promised Land. This, despite God’s repeated assurances that they were destined to succeed in that venture. “According to the number of days which you spied out the land — forty days — a year for each day. A year for each day! You shall bear your iniquity for forty years” (Numbers 14:34).
On the cusp of Tisha B’Av, I am acutely attuned to the passage of days and years… as, on the day following the fast, my bride and I will celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary. For the generation of the wilderness, days turned into 40 long and grueling years. In happy, grateful contrast, I look back over four decades of marriage with a new appreciation for the experience of our ancestor Jacob. Compelled to labor seven long years in order to marry Rachel…
Those “years seemed to him as but a few days, because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20).
Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the new editor of Masorti: The New Journal of Conservative Judaism. The CCJN congratulates him on his new appointment as well as his upcoming anniversary. Yasher koach!