Tisha B’av is for all Jews

Why I Fast and Mourn on Tisha B’Av, the Day of Homelessness and Displacement

Though we no longer actively seek out the forms of worship that animated Temple life, we do not serve ourselves or humanity well by dissociating from the trauma and loss that we experienced through its destruction.

by aryehbernstein [] · Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

As we are less than two days from Tisha B’Av, the major day of communal mourning in the Jewish year, marking the destruction of both Temples and sovereign Jewish life in Israel, and numerous other calamities in our memory.   In progressive, Jewish  circles, I often hear a version of the following:  I don’t want sacrifices to be restored or the Temple rebuiltand I much prefer Jewish life without the Temple to Jewish life with the Temple, so why should I fast, mourn, and observe this day?  The following is my response, why I think that that question is beside the point and why I think it is important to observe Tisha B’Av fully even (especially?) for those who think that post-Temple Judaism reflects progress over the Temple cult:

Tisha B’Av is a day of collective focus on Jewish particular angles on the universal ills of homelessness, displacement, vulnerability, alienation, and desperation. Though we no longer actively seek out the forms of worship that animated Temple life, we do not serve ourselves or humanity well by dissociating from the trauma and loss that we experienced through its destruction.  I find it telling that in Eikha (Lamentations) itself, little of the focus is on the Temple cult itself. It’s about personal degradation, poverty, and fear, and communal shock, homelessness, shame, anger, and alienation from God. Moreover, the Sages, of blessed memory, already, within a couple of hundred years after the 2nd destruction, showed awareness of the possibility of precious growth, creativity, and progress emerging from the ashes of destruction, while not dissociating from the trauma of the loss in the first place (eg, Pesikta deRav Kahana 20:5 (Roni Akarah), where R. Aha in the name of R. Yohanan unpacks Yesh’ayahu 54:1 to mean that Israel “produced many more righteous people in its destruction than when it was built up”).

Additionally, throughout Jewish history, collective wisdom has associated with Tisha B’Av those aspects of communal trauma that are about sudden, dislodging and traumatic rupture:  the burning of 24 cartloads of texts of the Talmud in 13th century Paris; the Spanish expulsion; the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, etc. In a world where displacement and homelessness are everyday occurrences, often right before our eyes in our own cities, when the whole world is faced with a refugee crisis, including one caused (justifiably or not) by Israel in our name, and in a moment when we Jews are mercifully very minimally represented in the pool of the dispossessed and homeless, it is at our peril that we disregard opportunities for carnal and emotional empathy, such as this day allows.  When we experience a taste of starvation, when we refrain from greeting people, acting as though there’s no one we can trust, no one who can support us, when we sit on the floor, barefoot and unbathed, we push ourselves to stop averting the eye from the millions near and far for whom every day is Tisha B’Av.

– See more at: http://jewschool.com/2014/08/03/32778/why-i-fast-and-mourn-on-tisha-bav-the-day-of-homelessness-and-displacement/#sthash.oCjm6MAB.dpuf

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