Today we begin the Hebrew month of Av, a month with many tragic milestones for the Jewish people. It was the day that the first Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian empire in 586 BCE, and the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE on the same day. It was the day that the Jewish community in Spain - the largest and most prosperous in the world at the time - was expelled by royal decree in 1492. World War I, which was the beginning of what culminated in the Holocaust, began on this day in 1914.

When speaking of the tragic nature of this time, the Talmud writes that the best comeback from Jewish tragedy is Jewish unity. Caring for one another, loving one another and seeing the best in each other.

What causes caring, empathy and love, or cruelty and apathy? What does it boil down to? The Kabbalah comes to an interesting conclusion. It says that knowledge is the ultimate driver of kindness, or the lack thereof.

What does this mean practically? It means that the Torah has such high regard for human beings, that it believes that the only possible cause for a human being to be cruel is a lack of understanding of the results of their actions. From the Torah's point of view, every person at their core is good. If they are not behaving that way it means they are out of touch with themselves, and need to refocus.

This doesn't mean that people are not 100% responsible for their actions. Of course they are. The fact that someone is out of touch with how they should be behaving is their responsibility.

Easier said than done. True understanding is not an easy task. We could have facts stored in our minds, yet they still won't mean anything to us. Understanding is a powerful form of connection, which takes a lot of effort to achieve. It takes discipline, hard work and perseverance to truly understand.

Caring for others comes down to understanding. Understanding is focus. Understanding is patience. Understanding is really getting to know about another person. Understanding is trying to understand their thoughts and feel their feelings. Most importantly, understanding is a paradigm shift. It's trying to see the world from another's eyes. Understanding is appreciating them for who they are, not who we perceive them to be.

During this time, when we remember how much the Jewish people went through to get to today, it is opportune to refocus on unity and genuine caring and giving. This does not necessitate understating, or agreeing with, every political philosophy. Just appreciating each other as Jews. Nor is this at the expense of caring for all people. On the contrary. Love is multiplied, not divided. Goodness starts at home, and spreads outwards. If we are kind to those closest to us, we end up being kind to all.

Rabbi Avrohom