Tisha B’Av Reflections 5780

As I reflect on the meaning of Tisha B’Av this year, I have felt myself pulled in two different directions.  

On the one hand, it feels difficult to turn away from the overwhelming brokenness of our world to  focus on the specificity of the tragedies marked by Tisha B’av. 

But from another perspective, Tisha B’Av may speak particularly well to the moment we find ourselves in. With so much of our world in upheaval today, we may find it easier to relate to the experiences of our ancestors whose lives were upended by the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. 

The words from the book of Eicha, or Lamentations, that we read on Tisha B’Av are the words of people who have had their lives and homes destroyed and are struggling to make sense of the chaos.  The unspeakable horror of the descriptions in the book of Eicha is chilling to read. While many of us are fortunate to be safe and healthy today, some of the images may strike us as eerily familiar: the empty streets of a great city. The feelings of isolation and loneliness. Yearning for comfort that we cannot find. 

The speaker in Eicha mourns what was lost, but we also hear uncertainty about the future. Where will we go? Will what was lost ever be rebuilt? What will the new normal be like? Reading Eicha this year, when our own feelings of fear and uncertainty about the future are heightened, we may be better able to understand just how devastating the destruction of the Temple was for our ancestors.

But more than this, I think reading Eicha teaches us that it is ok to mourn. That there are times when it is appropriate to cry, to lament, to express our sorrow without trying to solve or fix anything. Tisha B’Av serves that purpose in the Jewish calendar. It is a day set aside for the full expression of our grief, to allow ourselves to feel the things we might normally suppress. The plans to rebuild can wait until tomorrow. 

Wishing everyone a meaningful Tisha B’Av and an easy fast.