Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tisha B'Av

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Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month Av, is a time of mourning. We read Eichah (the Book of Lamentations). Lamentations is a hard book to read. There is a lot of suffering involved.

In chapter one, the prophet Jeremiah describes all of the suffering of the Jewish people at the time of the destruction of the temple. Eichah! (How!) The imagery of the widow crying with tears on her cheeks and no one to comfort her is a despairing image.

In chapter two, Jerusalem is on fire. Children are dying of hunger, mothers are begging in the streets. We accuse G-d--Look what you have done!

In chapter three, Jeremiah weeps and is dismayed at the fact that he is witnessing the punishments that the prophets warned about. He has no peace, no future. He begs G-d to remember him and his suffering.

In chapter four, tongues are stuck to throats, children pick through garbage, bodies are unrecognizable, faces are darker than soot, skin is shriveled. The end of the chapter is a prophecy of the second temple's destruction.

The last chapter, chapter five, is a loud outcry of prayer, hope, faith. Although more destruction is described, it ends with a prayer for the future and a request to G-d, "Return us to You and we will return! Renew our days as of old!"

If you are a believer that the Temple will some day be restored, you can remember the story in the Talmud that goes something like this:

The Sages were walking through Jerusalem after the destruction. They noticed there were foxes walking through the Holy of Holies. The Sages immediately began to weep. However, Rabbi Akiva laughed. They asked him to explain. He said, "Now that we have witnessed the fulfillment of the dreadful prophesy of Jeremiah, we can be certain that Zechariah's prophesy of rebuilding the Temple will be fulfilled soon!

I'd like to think that in the middle of the destruction, corruption, ill-will...there is the hope and the vision that all will be rebuilt and that around the corner is the Divine Light waiting to shine upon us.

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