According to the Hebrew calendar, this coming Tuesday is known as Tisha B’av, the ninth day of the month Av. This is the day that commemorates a number of calamities that have befallen the Jewish people throughout history, and most of all the destruction of the holy Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 at the hands of Rome, and the dispersion of the Jewish people from the land of Israel.
We Reform Jews have always had an ambiguous relationship with Tisha B’va. In fact, the early Reformers eliminated the observance of this day as they believed that we were no longer in a state of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. Rather, they believed that it was only through the Jewish dispersion throughout the world that the worthy moral values and ideals of Judaism could be spread.
For us, whether we observe Tisha B’av or not, the reality is that we are living in a fragile world where there is much cruelty and destruction. Yes, we want to believe in a better future, even as the present has us worried and perplexed.
At the time of the destruction of the Temple, the prophet Isaiah shared a vision which has remained alive for almost 2000 years: “There will yet again be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness.” He foresaw a peaceful time for humanity when peoples of different religions and nationalities would live together in peace and tranquility.
Is that vision but an impossible fantasy? To be a Jew is to hold on to hope. So may be affirm the faith that the “voices of joy and happiness” will one day prevail for humanity, and that the brokenness of our world will be made whole.