The Sacred and Hope filled Tears of Tisha B’Av
Tradition teaches us that Tisha B’Av is a time of mourning. We mourn the destruction of the first and Second Temple. Over time we have added expulsions, inquisitions, the Holocaust and some have even tried to make a connection with 9/11. The mental gymnastics involved in some of these equations are strenuous to say the least. Yet I would propose that we do not need to struggle with a Pilpulish effort to make the event meet the date on our calendar. Rather, let us simply accept that on a warm summer day, we take a break from our busy lives and allow ourselves to acknowledge that there is sorrow in the world. There has always been sorrow in the world and that until the Messianic age (and maybe after) there will be sorrow in the world.
And there is sorrow and hardship in our own lives. Without allowing that sorrow to dominate our lives, should we not recognize and reflect and even weep for the sadness that is in our world, in our tribe and in ourselves?
I weep for our world and the careless destruction that we heap upon it. My tears flow for lost loved ones and friends and my Rebbe for whom I ache. I look heavenward tearfully and silently wail for the struggles of friends and family and even strangers, I cry out at missed and squandered opportunities. I am dismayed over my loss of strength and physical abilities and memory and mental acuity. I take a day to let go, not to control my emotions, not to smile in the face of adversity. I say to myself: “There are times when I must be strong. This is not one of them.
The 9th of Av usually falls around my birthday giving that day a bittersweet quality.
I need this day of mourning to help me refocus. I need this day of mourning because I do not want this annual event to spiral down into a daily occurrence. I need this day to inspire me to rebuild what has been destroyed. After this day of mourning must come a day of building. After this day of mourning I can once more enjoy the warm summer days and be touched by the cool, crisp fall air and prepare for the cold and wondrous winter.
There is a story told or Rabbi Akiba (and I paraphrase) who stood on a hill overlooking the ruins of the Temple with other Rabbis. They saw foxes running through the destruction.
Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria, Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Akiba saw a fox emerging from the place of the Holy of Holies. The others started weeping; Rabbi Akiba laughed.
Said they to him: “Why are you laughing?”
And he said to them: “Why are you weeping?”
They cried: “This is such a sacred place and now foxes traverse it, it is a time for weeping.”
He responded: “That is why I laugh. Just as Uriah the Prophet foretold of this day, Zechariah foretold of the rebuilding of the Temple. Could the latter happen without the former?”
For me, Tisha B’Av is a time of weeping over the destruction. But I know that a new day will break and I must roll up my sleeves for the joyous task of rebuilding.