Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Post Tisha B’Av

Musings #63
August 3, 2004

Post Tisha B’Av

Among the “Minhagei Shiloh” (Shiloh customs) is gathering at the Tel of Ancient Shiloh to read Aicha (the Lamentations for the 9th of the Jewish month of Av) as the fast begins.

With that hard-boiled egg* sitting very uncomfortably in my stomach, I decided that walking a kilometer and a half (a mile) all the way down to Tel Shiloh would be a good idea. I gave myself plenty of time, especially since there really wasn’t anything to do after brushing my teeth.

The air was clean and cool, such a relief from the daytime heat. No cars passed until I was almost there, since those driving didn’t need to leave as early as I did. I live on the eastern slope of the highest hill in Shiloh. My living room is a “morning person’s dream,” with two large windows just perfect for watching the sun come up over Shvut Rachel. The Tel is geographically much lower and on the western side. So, on the Eve of Tisha B’Av I strolled westward, and the sun went down with me to the Tel.

Oranges, reds, pinks, silver and gold guided me. The rainbowed ribbon got thinner and thinner, and the silken sky got darker as I got closer to my destination. The rainbow and Shiloh, yes there’s a connection.

A rainbow appeared after the flood that G-d sent to destroy all but what Noah packed in his floating ark. The rainbow was to reaffirm what G-d commanded Noah “V’atem pru urvu shirtzu b’aretz urvu va” Bereishit, Genesis IX, 7. “And you, be fruitful and multiply, spread out in The Land, and multiply there.” With Noah, G-d had a new beginning, and from him descended Avraham and us.

Many, many generations later, after the exodus from Egypt and the death of the generation of slaves, the Jewish People had a new beginning in Shiloh. Joshua established Shiloh as the capital, religious and administrative center for Bnai Yisrael. For three hundred and sixty nine (369) years, while Bnai Yisrael “spread out,” settled the Land, the mishkan, the Ark of the Covenant rested here in Shiloh, and the Jewish People came here to worship.

Three hundred and sixty nine years is quite a long time. To get some idea, let’s compare. The United Nations is less than sixty years old. Many older people can remember its establishment. The United States is less than two hundred and thirty years old. Shiloh remained the capital over a hundred and thirty years longer. Even more amazing during those three hundred and sixty nine years, the twelve tribes continued with common traditions and educated their children in a common history. Consider that this was a time without easy communication, nor printing presses. Of course it wasn’t perfect. The time of the judges is known as one “when each man did what he thought best.” But delegations from the tribes still recognized Samuel, in Shiloh, as the person to request “a king.” Samuel ended up anointing the first two kings, Saul and David.

Preceding the nation’s transition from priests to kings, Shiloh was destroyed, burned, and the ark was captured. The devastation was legendary. Just over twenty years ago a layer of ash, the remains of that ancient fire was found at Tel Shiloh by a team of academic archeologists. It confirmed the destruction as described in the Bible.

Three thousand years after that destruction, we have returned.

Batya Medad, Shiloh
*It is traditional to end the pre-fast meal with a hard-boiled egg, like what is given to a mourner to eat immediately after the funeral.

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