Monday, July 23, 2007

A day of bitterness

Tisha B'av has just begun. I came back from hearing Aicha a short while ago and I thought, it's so easy to lose focus on fast days - any fast day. People concentrate so much on not eating, on counting down when it will be over, on trying to distract themselves. Tomorrow, I have to go to my internship in the city and I know it's going to be weird, it's going to take away from that Tisha B'av atmosphere I've felt nearly all my childhood in summer camp. So how can I make Tisha B'av meaningful, even if I have to treat it like a normal, regular day?

I want to take some time to mention certain tragedies I associate with Tisha B'av. These are tragedies that I've experienced, that I remember, that help me feel the power of the day so that I can truly begin to understand, in an infinitesimal way, what it is like to lose a Temple, a Beit Hamikdash.

1. When I was nine years old, my grandmother passed away. Her yartzeit is quite close to Tisha B'av. Although I was very young at the time, I do remember her well.

2. A few years ago, I was at summer camp and a counselor for a different division died without warning the day before Tisha B'av. That night, when we read Aicha, it was with a kavana that I think probably most of us had never felt before. Though I never knew this counselor, and though many in the camp never knew him, we were all affected by the tragedy.

3. My teacher, Dr. Schwebel, who just passed away about two weeks ago. Even then I thought, wow, during the three weeks, too. There is something about tragedies during the three weeks and nine days. It is almost like God is recognizing that these people are extremely important, that they mean so much, and yet He takes them away, just as we, as a people, have lost so much throughout the centuries at this time of year.

These three people, these three tragedies, I will always think about on Tisha B'av. They make my Tisha B'av more meaningful and more personal. I wish, I truly do wish, I knew how to properly mourn the Beit Hamikdash. But, unfortunately, though I have an excellent imagination for stories, I cannot bring myself to feel the proper emotions for a Beit Hamikdash I never personally knew. It makes me sad that I am so removed from it and also guilty, in a way, because I am a Jew and I should be devastated that we lost the Beit Hamikdash, that we no longer have it today, that it has not yet been built. And perhaps I am devastated, in my own way, because I have never known it. Because there was a golden period of Jewish history that I missed, that I never experienced. But all that is too far removed for me. I really do try.

So I feel Tisha B'av in my own way, through tragedies that I really do feel, through sadness that I really did experience. I hope this is not wrong of me, but I don't think it is. I think, in a way, that is what we are supposed to do. Tisha B'av is a day of general sadness - a day where we mourn anything and everything we have lost. And if that means connecting more to events in this lifetime as opposed to events 2000 years ago, than I think that's okay. I think it's alright.

Everyone deals with days of sadness in their own way. This is how I deal with it. I think of people I have personally lost, or who people near to me have lost. The most recent tragedy, Dr. Schwebel, is, of course, on the forefront of my mind. I still cannot believe she is being mourned, instead of joining us in mourning on this day. It is truly a day of bitterness.

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