A Letter from the Rabbi, Tisha B'Av
A TIME OF FASTING, MOURNING AND REFLECTION
Tisha B’Av (the Ninth of Av) is a time of mourning the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem and the Exile of the Jewish people. The haunting melody of Eicha (the Book of Lamentations) and the kinot (songs of mourning and loss) that we sing help us “remember” these moments of destruction and loss. This time of fasting and reflection upon the repeated tragedies the Jewish people have overcome in our history is considered the nadir of the Jewish year.
This year, we reach Tisha B’Av Wednesday night, July 29th. We will gather virtually at 8:15pm at this zoom address to mourn and to hear the compelling words and melody of Eicha, the Book of Lamentations:
I know that it is hard to come together when we must be physically apart. It may be hard to create the feeling of quiet, communal contemplation in our living rooms, but this year of all years, I want to urge you to join us in the observance of Tisha B’Av. Find a quiet space in your home, put on a kippah and take off your shoes, sit on the floor (perhaps with a mat or cushions), perhaps light a yahrzeit candle (to help with the mood), join the zoom service and, when it is time for Eicha, dim your lights and listen to this powerful text. We will share the text on the screen, but you might like to close your eyes and just hear the words. Open your hearts to this day. With all of the disruptions from regular life that we have encountered in these last few months, I imagine that we will be able to hear the prophet Jeremiah’s description of the destruction that he witnessed in ways we have not heard them before.
Tisha B’Av is one of only two days each year when we are asked to fast a full day (from sunset Wednesday until 3 stars appear in the sky on Thursday night). While Yom Kippur directs us to use that day of fasting to reflect on our personal actions, choices, and behaviors in the year that has past, Tisha B’Av asks us to think collectively—to focus on our actions as a community, and especially as a people. As on Yom Kippur, we shed our leather shoes, and abstain from food, drink, and frivolous talk, but on Tisha B’Av we act as mourners, sitting low to the ground, physically and spiritually.
It is said that the destruction of Tisha B’Av occurred because of Sinat Hinam (Causeless Hatred). And sadly, this corrosive dynamic is no less prevalent in our world today than it was in the Jerusalem of our ancestor’s time. Sinat Hinam leads to violence and to devaluing people because of the color of their skin, their ethnic background, their immigration status, their education, their financial resources, their religion, their sexual orientation, gender or gender-identity.
May we use the 25 hours of Tisha B’Av in this most challenging of years to reflect upon the Causeless Hatred that is so prevalent within and between nations. And may we commit ourselves afresh to creating a world where we put aside this hatred, look with care and respect at those who are different from us or who hold very different views from ours, and work toward olam hesed yibaneh – building the world guided by love, kindness, and mutual respect and understanding – envisioned by the Psalmist.
I will close by reminding you that the night of Tisha B’Av and the next morning are periods of deep mourning. People do not greet one another and the melodies of the day reflect the sadness of the texts we hear. And yet, as the afternoon of Tisha B’Av approaches, the mood begins to lift. For, according to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will be born on Tisha B’Av. Out of the depths of despair, the spark of hope is born. In this most challenging of years, we, who feel the darkness of these days so deeply, must not only contemplate the deep and real challenges we face as individuals, as communities and as a world, but we must also allow ourselves to trust that these challenges will be overcome. We will move through this pandemic. We will find a way to curb the hatred and devaluing of members of our society. We must hold onto hope and envision a better world. For that too is the promise of Tisha B’Av.
To join the PSJC community at our Tisha B’Av virtual service, click here for the event link.
Rabbi Carie Carter