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Tisha B'Av: Facing Pain and Finding Meaning

06/30/2023 09:08:15 AM


Rabbi Ezray

Judaism teaches us to face pain by giving voice to it, learning from it, and seeking to transform it into meaning.

One of the most interesting examples of this is Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av) which commemorates painful moments of our history, all which occurred on this date. The memories include commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temple, various Crusades and expulsions, and numerous other tragic memories. 

We acknowledge sadness by mournfully recounting what happened. We sit on the floor and read the book of Lamentations (Eicha). The book is read in a mournful cadence. The book vividly describes the suffering and devastation connected to the destruction of the Temple. It captures the horror of the siege—starvation, people turning against one another, chaos. Poetically it personifies the suffering of Jerusalem as an abandoned and solitary widow. It is a hard book to read, yet we have learned as a people that if we do not give voice to the pains of the past, that pain festers for generations. Tisha B’Av is a time to weep and to feel. It is a day of fasting and we forgo washing, sexual activity, using perfume and wearing leather (a sign of luxury). The words call upon us to enter history.

Yet the commemoration does not consist solely of lament and sadness. The author of the book of Lamentations also lifts the unanswerable questions that suffering poses regarding faith: Where is God? Why is this happening? It is these questions that allow faith to grow and evolve.
Woven together with expressing pain and bringing up difficult questions is both learning from history and beginning to imagine a different future. One of the most profound aspects of Tisha B’Av is exploring what led to this destruction and finding lessons that apply to the moment in which we live. The Book of Lamentations is read softly at first, slowly building in volume until the entire congregation sings the final verse: "Turn us to you, O Lord, and we will return. Renew our days as of old." It is the belief in renewal in the face of tragedy that Tisha B’Av imprints on our soul. Tisha B’Av becomes a guidepost as we learn to use tragedy as a source of rebirth, change, and renewal.

Tisha B'Av will be observed at CBJ beginning on Wednesday night July 26 at 7:30. Our commemoration will include the evening service, recitation of the book of Lamentations and poetry and prayers connected to commemorating this sad day in Jewish history.

Sat, June 22 2024 16 Sivan 5784