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Tisha b’Av

July 29, 2009 – 10:06 pm15 Comments

eichaAt shul tonight, after the reading of Eicha (The Book of Lamentations), about twenty people sat in a circle on the floor and discussed the meaning of Tisha b’Av.  The consensus was that it is almost impossible for Jews today to truly feel the sorrow experienced by those who lived through the destruction of the temples.

Similarly, it is hard for us to genuinely grieve for the destruction of Jewish communities during the Spanish Inquisition as we do for the destruction of Jewish communities during the Shoah.

And surely, a time will eventually come when future generations find it difficult to relate to the tragedy of the Shoah the way we do today.

People offered a number of approaches:

(1)    One person said that on Tisha b’Av she feels that God is present in her own sorrows and suffering.

(2)    Another said that when there are so many reports of suffering across the globe, there’s no shortage of inspiration for feeling sad. Taken in this way, Tisha b’Av is a good opportunity to read the newspaper emotionally, not intellectually.

(3)    A third said that for her Tisha b’Av is about disunity between Jews. The Temple was a common place of worship for all Jews (and some non-Jews), and since its destruction sectarianism has prevailed.

(4)    Others remembered the persecution and suffering of Jews over the generations.

We’re interested in hearing how (or indeed if) you relate to Tisha b’Av.

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  • Chaim says:

    Tisha B’Av is not so much about mourning the loss of lives or the multiple tragedies although they are remembered to learn lessons from (causes, prevention, remedies) but rather as to the loss of the Temple and what it means ie G-ds revelation and personal overt, manifest relationship to us. That the life we live now is not a true Jewish life but rather like a dream.

    Psalm 126 “When G-d will return the exiles of Zion we will [see our experiences in exile] as having been dreamers”.

  • Anna says:

    Tisha B’Av has always been a fraught day for me. I never know what to do with myself. I’m a reluctant faster, it doesn’t really add any meaning to the day for me. And whilst I appreciate post-modern interpretations of 9 Av (eg. to think about unity and love between Jews, etc), I can’t help but to think that that sort of interpretation is a bit of a ‘cop-out’. Yes, one of the major messages of 9 Av is about the danger of sinat chinam (baseless hatred), but it’s also fundamentally about commemorating the destruction of the temples. And seeing as I don’t particularly yearn for a return to that style of Judaism, it feels a bit phony to be pretending to be sad about it. I can’t help but wonder if in our attempt to ‘read meaning’ into everything (as nice as that aim is) we are somewhere edging a bit too far from what it’s really about…?

  • Jason says:

    What exactly is Sinat Chinam?

    Apart from Anti-semites who a specialist Sinat-Chinamniks, how does a Jews dislike a fellow Jew for no reason at all?

    Does it mean that if one has a motive, no matter how flimsy, that person is booted from that category…baseless hatred/sinat chinam and catapulted into category B, namely….. hatred with a cause?

    Justifiable Hatred?

  • Ittay says:

    what do people make of this?
    The politics of fasting on Tisha B’Av
    By Alex Sinclair

  • Tal says:

    For me Tisha B’Av represents the various tragedies that have occurred to the Jewish people over thousands of years, including the destructions of the temples (but not exclusive to), as well as expulsions, pogroms and the holocaust.
    I began a new tradition of fasting on Tisha B’Av last year following a discussion with a friend; I found that, whilst I am a secular Jew, by focusing on the tragedies caused to my people, I am able to find meaning in this day. I have found that fasting is a way in which I can both feel suffering, and through which I am best able to reflect in an almost meditative state.
    I also spend a large part of my day exploring different understandings and interpretations of Tisha B’Av through research and discussion with others.

  • Stefan says:

    I wish Anna success in finding the meaning of Tisha B’Av. Or, rather, an ability to accept its meaning; for it seems to me that she already knows that the meaning is “to think about unity and love between Jews, etc”. Yet she dismisses it as “post-modern”. Well, if the post-modern period extends back several centuries… For this understanding of what the destruction of the Temples means to us in exile is hardly new. Yes, we commemorate the destruction of the Temples and realise that this exile is lasting as long as it is because we can always find a ‘reason’ to hate our neighbour. Until we realise that this exile is meant to instill in us the ability to make a tikkun on the behaviour which removed our Divine protection 2,000 years ago then we will not merit an early – and easy – transition to the Messianic age. Tish B’Av is not merely mourning for the destruction of the Temples; it can’t be. It is an opportunity for us to collectively and individually understand the sins which created such a chillul Hashem. When we can create a kiddush Hashem which can counteract that shame then the whole world will benefit. After all, when the Temple stood we davened for and made sacrifices on behalf of the nations of the world: as it’s written, had the nations known what they had lost with the Temples’ destruction then they would be mourning too. Like you, Anna, I’m a “reluctant faster” when it comes to Tisha B’Av. By recognising the meaning of Tisha B’Av and changing our behaviour accordingly it is within our power to make last week’s Tisha B’Av fast the last.

  • ittay says:

    in light of the terrible example of sinat chinam (baseless hatred) exhibited in Tel-Aviv yesterday, I think the lessons of tisha be’av have yet to be learnt by our people.


    Unfortuntely, we now have another reason to mourn in the month of Av next year.

  • Anna says:

    Stefan – perhaps I wasn’t clear in my post. Yes, you’re right, 100% – a significant part of Tisha b’Av is learning from past mistakes and attempting to attain love and unity between Jews. That’s not the post-modern part. But sometimes it seems to me we’re bending over backward to make the day relevant to our modern lives, drawing analogies between ‘then’ and ‘now’ that may not entirely… match. Sorry, it’s difficult to articulate what I’m trying to say. I suppose I find 9 Av problematic because I am an agnostic – the raison d’être given for attaining love and unity between Jews is the coming of the moshiach and the rebuilding of the beit hamikdash. I do not believe in the coming of the moshiach, nor would I want a rebuilding of the temple. So for me, it feels somehow disingenuous to mourn something I don’t miss and wouldn’t want.

  • Anna,

    Wouldn’t you have a problem with all of the Jewish Holidays then, not just Tisha B’Av?

  • Anna says:

    David Werdiger:
    Short answer – yes.
    Long answer – I find Tisha B’Av to be more problematic than most, for lots of reasons which are too lengthy to list in a comment on a blog post :-)

    On a scale of 1 to Messianism it seems to rate quite highly.

  • Stefan says:

    Anna, I don’t understand the point of your comment, then. As you said to David, you have a problem with all Jewish observance! That you have more problems with some aspects as opposed to others doesn’t seem terribly significant.
    Your questions obviously go a lot deeper than the objectives of Tish B’Av. You need a rav; you need to learn. The fact that you are asking questions is a sign that your neshama is thirsting for answers. You will find them in the Torah. But you will need help. If you want me to recommend some decent, mainstream people whom you may find useful on your journey then please respond to this post.

  • Anna says:

    My “neshama is thirsting for answers”, eh?

    And here I was thinking all I wanted was a glass of red wine.

    I love it when people on the internet tell me what I need!

    Thanks, but no thanks, Stefan.

  • Chaim says:

    Stefan – do you really think you are successful with your approach?

    You need a rav! compassion, sensitivity, actually reading and listening to what people write or say before attacking them.

    Anna – just keep thinking, learning – Just be truthful and enjoy the wine.

    To quote a friend:

    There are three types of Jews:

    Jews who do mitzvahs.

    Jews who do more mitzvahs.

    Jews who do even more mitzvahs.

    And that’s about it, because a Jew can hardly breathe without doing a mitzvah.

  • Stefan says:

    Chaim, How was I attacking anyone??!!
    Anna, if I came across as patronising I apologise. I spoke only as someone who has thirsted for answers and loves learning more questions. But if you really only want a glass of wine, well, I guess I misjudged the situation in more ways than one. I do wish you mazal u’brocha.

  • Anna,

    Hope you waited until after the 9 days for that glass of red!

    I’m curious as to why TB would stand out as a more difficult “holiday” for you – perhaps this is worthy of a whole post, not just comments on a post. It may have to wait until next year, though. Or perhaps the theme is broader – the modern reinterpretation of Jewish holidays so that people find their celebration more relevant.

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