Beginning tomorrow night, many Jews will observe the holiday of TishaB’av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. For those who observe this holiday, it is regarded as one of the saddest days of the Jewish year. It was on this day that the First Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, while the Second Temple was destroyed by Rome in the year 70 on the same day. Also on this day, the Expulsion from Spain began in 1492.
For Orthodox Jews who mourn the destruction of the Second Temple, the day is marked by fasting, dimming the lights of the synagogue, and extinguishing (or turning off) the Eternal Light. It is a day of denying oneself all pleasures and luxuries, with some going so far as to use a rock for a pillow.
While TishaB’av is not observed by most non-Orthodox Jews, I think that it is a holiday in which we can find meaning, especially at the present time. For we live in a world that knows too much sadness and destruction.
Yes, there is much brokenness in our world; so much over which we ought grieve. I think first of the innocent victims of Texas and Ohio. Yet again we are reminded of the reality of sick people being able to obtain such weapons of mass destruction, and the horrible price that we pay as a society.
On TishaB’av especially, let us remember the would-be immigrants who languish in inhumane conditions as they seek opportunity and a better life.
And on this day of mourning and great sadness, we ought remember the children of our world who will die today because of hunger, estimated at no less than 30,000 each day.
Yes, we have reason to grieve this TishaB’av as we look out at our world. But let us do more than think about these realities. On this TishaB’av weekend, let us do some kind deed that will help to rebuild a broken world. And even if we are unable to heal all of the brokenness that is out there, we can make it a better and more gentle world for those whose lives we touch. And that is no small thing.
I wish you a Shabbat of inner peace and renewal. Together we can bring a significant measure of goodness to our world.
Rabbi David Greenberg