Tuesday, August 09, 2011
This year I had some very meaningful experiences which I'd like to share.
On the night of Tisha B'Av we gather in our synagogues for the ma'ariv (evening) prayer and read the scroll of Eicha (Lamentations). This year I participated in a special reading done by women. It was followed by a program which included reading the Kinot (poems of mourning) with a view to better understanding them. The program moved on to learning other literature relevant to the destruction interspersed with our singing solemn songs a capella. It was a very moving experience.
In the morning I went to my regular synagogue where we had the usual morning service followed by reading the Kinot with historic and contextual explanations by our own Rabbi Aryeh Frimer. That was followed by a lesson about the legend recounted in the Talmud of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza given by another member of our congregation.
Marking Tisha B'Av is not easy for us today. On the simplest level we are talking about events which took place thousands of years ago. It's hard to keep up the sense of loss over so many years. Of course, it wasn't just a building that was destroyed, it was the entire way of life of the Jewish people in their land and their religious observance. It was the start of the exile which has still not come to an end. Over the years Tisha B'Av has become the day for mourning many other serious tragedies which have befallen the Jews all the way from the Crusades through the Holocaust. So while it is not difficult to relate to mourning historically it is a challenge to make it personal.
Experiences like the ones I had this year make the day much more meaningful. And here lies another paradox. Jewish mourning rules do not permit learning Torah because we love it and it brings us comfort. For this reason on Tisha B'Av we are permitted to study only 'bad' things (i.e. about the destruction) or nothing at all. So if I have a sense of satisfaction because I have come closer to understanding the tragedy that is Tisha B'Av is that good or bad?
My hope and prayer is that next year I won't have to deal with these questions.