The 9th of Av, which we commemorate this Saturday night, is a day of mourning. This is the day, tradition tells us, that the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in Jerusalem and the Romans destroyed the Second Temple. While we lost a sacred space, the holiest place of our people, we Reform Jews mourn the even greater destruction of Jewish unity in the Land of Israel.
Unity begins with love for our neighbor and ourselves. Two thousand years later, we still fight for that unity in Israel and America. Some days we make progress, and other days we take a step (or two) back. The Talmud teaches us that the Second Temple was destroyed because of the hatred that existed between human beings. The Jewish people lost whatever unity existed and experienced enormous tragedy. We must restore and strive for the unity that comes with a greater understanding and love for each other.
What unites all Jews is a shared text, the Tanakh (an acronym for Torah Neviim-Prophets, and Ketuvim-Writings). The stories between the covers bind the Jewish people together with ancient tales of struggle and triumph. However, too often we do not uncover the stories past the pages of Deuteronomy. I believe that if we shared a greater understanding of our ancient story, then we would come even closer toward unity.
Nothing significant comes in an instant, and the same is true for reading the entire Tanakh. Over the next three and a half years (929 days) I will be a part of a worldwide book club to read the entire Tanakh, cover to cover, one chapter a day. I hope you’ll join me for however long you’d like. The cycle just began on Sunday, July 15, and we are only in the 5th chapter of Genesis–924 chapters to go!
This weekend we will have many opportunities to reflect on our unity. On Friday night the entire Reform Jewish community of Atlanta will celebrate Shabbat at Temple Emanu-El! On Saturday evening, many Reform and Conservative synagogues, including Temple Emanu-El, will come together at Congregation Etz Chayim to commemorate the 9th of Av. I hope you will join us throughout the weekend to celebrate and reflect as a community who dreams of unity.
 Babylonian Talmud Yoma 9b