What exile?

Where are the bad guys? Where's the persecution? Where's the suffering?

Those thoughts went through my 10-year-old head that day in yeshivah elementary school when our teacher told us that we Jews are "still in galut (exile)." I didn't get it.

What exile? Growing up in 70's and 80's California didn't seem too bad. Not bad at all.

Years later, as an adult, the thought entered my mind that "exile" can be eliminated in the time it takes to buy an El Al plane ticket.

Today I understand: Our exile is spiritual. We don't know who we are.


A society Jew invites his day's movers and shakers to a ball. Tells his shlimazel of a servant to invite his buddy Kamtza. Servant gets the name wrong. Invites Bar Kamtza.

Problem. Our society Jew hates Bar Kamtza. Sees him at his party. Raises a stink. Bar Kamtza tries to reason, offers to pay for his food, for the whole party, just to avoid the humiliation. Bar Kamtza gets bodily bounced out. The rabbis present don't protest. Bar Kamtza gets angry. Slanders Jews to the Romans. Romans destroy Jerusalem. Exile begins.

That's the story as they teach it straight from the Talmud. "The Temple was destroyed by sinat chinam ["baseless hatred"--as epitomized by the host's hatred of Bar Kamtza]."

But it wasn't just hatred. There's another element here—resentment.

Bar Kamtza was the host's enemy, but the host was not Bar Kamtza's enemy. The host hated Bar Kamtza—just hated him. But Bar Kamtza did not hate the host.

So for Bar Kamtza, who very well may have been a wonderful person, it's too much. "I offer to pay for the entire party, and he still just hates so much that he just wants me out? And the big rabbis just sit there and do nothing?" The dark fire of resentment was kindled in Bar Kamtza's heart—corrosive, all-destroying resentment. And it took him. And took his people down. But he didn't care. All because of resentment. The real "baseless hatred."

Beware its volcanic power. Its effects span millennia. That's why we're here. We're still resenting.

My First Real Tish'ah B'Av

Those who lived through the Holocaust era, whether on American or European soil, have lived through persecution. But many of my generation have been spoiled. I certainly have been.

Throughout every era of Jewish history, bad things happened on Tish'ah B'Av. For those Holocaust-era Jews, this truism is ever immediate. For us young ones, though, not necessarily. But today, Jewish soldiers shatter Jewish hearts (both others' and their own) while Arabs dance in a CNN Special Report from the Gaza Strip, right on my computer screen.

It's Tish'ah B'Av, alright. For real.