Tisha B’Av: For Whom, For What Shall We Mourn?

Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash
Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

Thursday July 30 brings us to Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. A fast day. A day that memorializes tragedies from Jewish history. In the tradition it is a day of mourning. Special prayers are recited, the Book of Lamentations is read and we mourn the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, rebellions against Rome, expulsions and the litany of woes that have befallen Jews. For most of the contemporray Jewish world, this day goes unrecognized. For the majority of the Jewish world, we do not mourn for or seek the reestablishment of the Temple. Most of the Jewish world this week will not fast, sit on low chairs as if in a house of mourning and self deny.

But, maybe, this year is different? For, in the midst of our pandemic, we can ask that maybe this year we can take some time to reflect; for what can we mourn this year, for whom can we mourn, for surely this year is so different. And in doing so, what can we take from this? Maybe this year we can  take a moment to remember the things we have lost, the times we missed, the moments that never were and can never be and most of all, the people that we have lost. Maybe we can shed a tear or say a prayer for all that might have been but can never be. And maybe we can stop and meditate or pray on what we can take from this. For if we dwell only on loss, we will never be able to move forward. There is a line from a shiva book that goes “help us to know that time does heal and that grief will yield its final grip”. We will emerge from this period of personal, spiritual, social and communal isolation. As we emerge, what will be take from this experience? There will never be a return to what was in the way it was. Like grief, we will carry some loss into our future.

Yet, as some are now writing, maybe we can take something positive from these moments. We will never be able to replace the losses in life and time. But as my colleague Rabbi Stephen Fuchs has written: “instead of trying to get back to the old normal, maybe we can embrace the silver lining in the very dark cloud passing over us and create a new and better normal for ourselves and future generations.” Maybe the isolation will allow us to remember how precious our relationships are and allow us to reset priorities. Maybe the absence of community will see us recommit to strengthening our communities. Maybe the constant pictures of suffering will encourage and motivate us to care more and help more. In the end, the Jewish response to this challenge is one of hope. Rabbi Fuchs again: “Still, I believe that the secret to Jewish survival despite all the hardships and tragedy history has imposed on us is our ability to cling to the hope that things will get better.” So, this week, maybe take some time on the 30th of July to remember what we have lost, but equally, to remember that we will emerge into our future and perhaps celebrate that tikvah, that hope that we wil have had the courage and the strnegth to learn from these times and make the future better.

Keyn Yhi Ratzon

Rabbi Richard F Address

1 Comment

  1. I am moved by the sentiments here. But I wish we would stop using the word “normal” or the expression “new normal”. There is no such thing! What is normal for a healthy young person just beginning their life journey is different from a newly married or young parent. Normal is different for those who watch children leave home, change jobs, move or make other decisions. Normal is comfort, travel, grandchildren and a circle of friends and synogogue for some as they age. Other older people face financial hardships and life impacting health issues. Normal for many is poverty and /or discrimination. And tragically, for some, normal is too hard to bear and they choose to end their lives. “Normal” divides us. Causes us to make assumptions. And creates confusion and mistrust. Life is different for each of us. Our religious beliefs and philosophies differ. Wouldn’t it make sense for us to respect or at least try to understand that? There is no “normal”.

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