SAVE THE DATE: Sunday,August 21st, 10 am - Noon, Summer Fun Meet and Greet. This will be a great morning for bagels (of course!), seeing old Havurah friends and meeting new ones, relay races and games for kids and the kid in all of us. Watch your e-mails for location!
THREE WEEKS IN THE HEAT OF SUMMER
We’ve been feeling a lot of heat. We’ve got record high temperatures across the country, and there's been much “heated rhetoric” at both the Republican and Democratic conventions. These hot summer days coincide with the time of year in the Jewish calendar known as the “Three Weeks”, beginning with the 17th of the month of Tammuz (July 23rd) , and ending on the 9th of the month of Av (August 13th).
According to tradition, the walls of Jerusalem were breached on the 17th of Tammuz by first the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and then the Romans six hundred years later in 70 CE. These attacks led three weeks later to the First and Second Temples both going up in flames and being destroyed on Tisha b’Av – the 9th of Av.
These three weeks throughout our history have been seen as a period of mourning for the loss of the Holy Temple, the epicenter of Jewish life, and the place that our people saw as God’s dwelling place on earth. Tradition associates many additional calamities with this time: in 1096 the armies of Pope Urban gathered to commence the first Crusade, in 1290 King Edward II of England issued his order expelling all the Jews in his realm, in 1492, the expulsion of all Jews from Spain. And in modern times, the 9th of Av coincides with the outbreak of World War One in 1914, and the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942.
Tisha B’Av is a day of deep sadness; it's meant to take us, for just one day, on a journey of facing the shadow side of human existence. Traditionally on Tisha B'Av, we do not engage in anything that brings pleasure: food, sex, even studying Torah. Services are often conducted in the semi-dark with people sitting on low stools, as mourners do, and a haunting melody is used to chant from the Book of Lamentations, which tells of the destruction of the Temple.
The observance of Tisha B’Av can be marked not only with the traditional remembrance of times that have been disastrous for the Jews, but rather with a broader view of human history and our place in it. As Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi states:
“There is a danger posed by the Three Weeks [and our observance of Tisha B’Av] with its list of catastrophes that befell our people one generation after another. The danger is a paranoia that declares that everyone else in the world is wrong, and therefore their fate is of little concern to us. Instead, we should generalize from our experience and become involved in the universal….In the midst of remembering our history, we must reclaim as well our role as planetary citizens.”
We like to think of summer as a time when we are light-hearted, free, and having fun. May it be so!! But with the "heated rhetoric" of the coming elections, we have seen, along with the good, some of the ugliness of how people treat one another, and our call to be "planetary citizens" is loud and clear. With the 17th of Tammuz, the Three Weeks and then Tisha B’Av occurring at the height of summer, in the midst of camps and vacations and picnics, we are also confronted with times in our history when the heat was more like a consuming, fiery furnace than a nourishing warmth.
In the larger cycle of holidays, with the depth of pain and brokenness that we may feel on Tisha B'Av, truly seeing the cruelty that human beings have inflicted upon one another throughout history until now, we seek a path back towards hope and wholeness as we begin to prepare for Rosh HaShana. Descending into the dark has us reach again for the light.
A different perspective on Tisha B’Av, offered by Rabbi Lewis Eron in an article titled The Modern Meaning of Tisha B'Av, explores the idea that perhaps we no longer need to find ways to mourn our losses, and can incorporate into Tisha B’Av observance new paths to cherish all that we have gained. “Our chief worry is not being crushed in our weakness, but becoming arrogant and careless with our success and power”, he states.
I hope you can join myself and Rabbi Shawn (my husband and the rabbi of Mishkan Shalom) for Tisha B’Av learning, followed by a service with traditional chanting from The Book of Lamentations, and contemporary readings. We’ll gather at our home on August 13th from 8 – 10 pm. Together we’ll remember the destruction of Jerusalem , while holding in mind and heart the tragedies and injustices of our own time, and the ways we are empowered to make change, not just for us, but for everyone. Send me an e-mail at email@example.com, and I’ll send you our address.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,