OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil
OU Executive Vice President, Emeritus, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
The Fast of the 17th of Tammuz is past, the Three Weeks are upon us, and OU Executive Vice President, Emeritus Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb and Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil are in the final stages of preparation of their annual Tisha B’Av webcasts, a tradition around the world for people who cannot get to the synagogue for family or work reasons, or who want to supplement their recitation of the Kinot (elegies) of the mournful day with brilliant commentary from the Orthodox Union leaders.
Tisha B’Av this year falls on Tuesday, July 16. Pre-registration for the webcasts can be done at www.ou.org.
For a second year, Rabbi Weinreb’s webcast will originate in Israel, at the OU’s Seymour J. Abrams Jerusalem World Center. Rabbi Weil’s presentation will take place at the Boca Raton Synagogue in Florida. This will be Rabbi Weinreb’s 25th consecutive Tisha B’Av program, 12 under the auspices of the OU. For Rabbi Weil it will be his fifth, with the first two originating from Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, where he was senior rabbi before assuming his position at the OU.
Rabbi Weinreb’s theme will be “Tools for Recovery/Tefillot for Redemption,” distinguishing between tools and tefillot. Rabbi Weil will address “Confronting the Devastation.” Both will draw on a wide variety of sources, old and new, religious and secular, to enrich their commentary.
Rabbi Weinreb’s presentation will be webcast from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Israel time, meaning 2:00-6:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) for those watching it live. After Rabbi Weinreb’s presentation begins replay at 9:00 a.m. EDT, Rabbi Weil’s program will broadcast live at 9:15 a.m. EDT. The audience can watch either shiur or switch from one to the other. In addition, both presentations will be archived on the OU homepage, available to be watched throughout the day, and beyond.
“Besides reviewing historical events, I regularly comment on current events, problems in our community, etc,” Rabbi Weinreb shared. “I also eulogize individuals who have passed away during the previous year, and they have ranged from victims of terror, to great Torah sages, to personal friends and relatives, and to ‘ordinary’ folk.”
Rabbi Weinreb continued, “This year, I plan to speak about Israeli Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon, Holocaust survivor Joseph Friedensohn, and also Rav Neuvirt (author of Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata). I will discuss two tragedies which are not covered in the standard Kinot. One is from the fourth century in Eretz Yisrael, and is known as ‘Mered Gallus.’ The other is from the 17th century in Poland and is known as ‘Gezairot Tach V’tat’ (The Decrees of 1648-49). We will be studying a very early Kinah recently unearthed in the remnants of the Cairo Genizah about the former catastrophe and will be reciting the exquisitely beautiful Kinah on the latter catastrophe, composed by Rav Shabtai HaKohen, also known as the Schach.”
Being in Jerusalem, of course, has special meaning on Tisha B’Av, as Rabbi Weinreb makes clear. “There is no more appropriate place to commemorate Tisha B’Av than Jerusalem. Knowing that we mourn events that occurred on or very near to the ground upon which we sit as we recite the Kinot, gives the entire experience a powerful and poignant dimension. At the same time, it is encouraging and consoling to sit in the midst of a rebuilt Jerusalem, and to see the consolations of the Prophets in the process of their fulfillment.”
Rabbi Weil commented, “We’re going to relive and re-experience the various tragedies throughout Jewish history through the words and ideas of the Kinot, supplemented by materials from throughout Jewish history.”
Rabbi Weil is no stranger to the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS), and has spoken there many times in the past. “Boca Raton Synagogue is once again thrilled to be hosting Rabbi Weil for Tisha B'Av,” said Rabbi Philip Moskowitz, BRS assistant rabbi. “Countless congregants have commented how growing up, they always dreaded the fast day and found the recitation of Kinot to be somewhat tedious. But Rabbi Weil has an incredible capacity for bringing our ancient texts to life and filling them with relevancy and emotion.”
Viewers are encouraged to use as their prayer book The Koren Mesorat HaRav Kinot, the complete Tisha B’Av service, with profound commentary on the elegies by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and translation by Rabbi Weinreb.
In addition to the webcasts, the OU and Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future have prepared a video, “Making Tisha B’Av Relevant to Us Today,” which has been sent to synagogues around North America and around the world. It will feature Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, director of education, NCSY, the OU’s international youth movement; Professor Smadar Rosensweig, clinical assistant professor of Bible at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University; Rabbi Weil; and Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg, rebbe and mashgiach, Stone Beit Midrash Program, at YU.
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