The attempted stabbing murder of Rabbi Shlomo Noginski in Boston on Thursday, July 1, is a stark reminder of the danger of the times we live in, and the challenge all Jews must face now. Jew-haters have become more emboldened, not just across America, but throughout the Diaspora / Exile, and are committing violent attacks with truly alarming frequency.
This attack came during the national Jewish mourning period between the fast of Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz (this year on June 27) and Tish’ah B’Av (this year on July 18) when we traditionally lament the ancient destruction of Jerusalem and the corresponding loss of Jewish sovereignty. That this attack came now, at this time of year, is a clear sign that we must make caring for one another, and our mutual security, a much higher priority.
There is a custom to eat a hard-boiled egg at shiv’ah. Thank G-d, the Noginski family did not have to observe shiv’ah, and we pray for his speedy recovery. A more well-known custom involving eggs is to place an egg on the Seder plate, and another custom is to eat an egg before Tish’ah B’Av. This all seems to be very strange.
On Passover, we place the egg on the Seder plate to symbolize the korban chagigah (the festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. And on Tish’ah B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, we remember the destruction of both the first and the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem, as well as other, lesser tragedies.
The Rama, in his late-Middle Ages commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, offers another, deeper connection, and links the custom of placing an egg on the Seder plate to the egg eaten before the commemoration of Tish’ah B’Av. The link between Passover and Tish’ah B’Av is that Tish’ah B’Av falls on the same day of the week as the first night of Passover. Since the egg is associated with mourning, it directs attention to the mourning of the Jewish people on the day of Tish’ah B’Av – the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av.
The symbolism of the egg on Passover is to associate the historical mourning of Jews on the ninth day of the month of Av with the celebration of freedom on the first night of Passover. However, this juxtaposition is puzzling. A joyous celebration of freedom is linked with the horrendous remembrance of pogroms, persecution, and the Exile of our people and related destruction of Tish’ah B’Av.
One answer is that Jews left Egypt early, at 210 years not the original 400 years that the Torah mentions. But because the Jews were about to completely assimilate and lose their identity, they were freed earlier. There was a spiritual debt of the remaining years that were “owed” as it were. This was a debt that was paid on Tish’ah B’Av.
But that explanation is a hard egg to swallow.
Jewish people have endured so much as a people, both the celebrations and the sorrows. As a result of centuries of living and adapting to different environments, Jews have developed into many distinct groups.
Today it is even more complicated. Due to technology, media, and the rapid intermixing of culture and tradition, Jews celebrate their Jewishness in many different ways. We have become a large and extended family. This family, however, has taken on different streams, colors, and traditions. Whether you will agree with these other streams or not, the fact remains, that they do exist, and do form a distinct part of the fabric of our Jewish people.
Another symbolism of the egg is that it is a food item that gets harder not softer the more you cook it, symbolizing the strength of the Jewish people. But the thing that makes us stronger also makes us more intolerant, and, at times, uncaring and less welcoming of others. That is the sad state of affairs we are in as the Exile continues.
Our goal on Tish’ah B’Av is to hear and practice the message of tolerance and love of fellow Jews, before pride and prejudice. Tish’ah B’Av offers the opportunity to soften the egg of Exile, allowing us to truly unite as one people and take more responsibility for each other’s security.
The attempted murder of Rabbi Noginski should cause all Jews to be more concerned about the protection of synagogues and other Jewish institutions. Make a pledge to strive for Jewish unity and Jewish security and share it on social media. Take an active role in helping improve security at synagogues and Jewish schools. The time is now.
One positive action you can take immediately is to order Herut North America’s “SYNAGOGUE SECURITY TOOL KIT©” which is being offered free of charge to all members of the Jewish community interested in improving security, especially as synagogue leaders. More info on the kit can be found on Herut’s website: www.herutna.org/synagogue-security-tool-kit.
Joshua Goldstein is chairman of Herut North America. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education. In 2020, Goldstein was a delegate to the 38th World Zionist Congress for Herut. Herut’s website is https://herutna.org/.