On Tisha b'Av
עַֽל־נַֽ֤הֲר֨וֹת בָּבֶ֗ל שָׁ֣ם יָ֭שַׁבְנוּ גַּם־בָּכִ֑ינוּ בְּ֝זָכְרֵ֗נוּ אֶת־צִיּֽוֹן
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept, as we remembered Zion (Psalm 137:1).
Psalm 137 goes on to describer the grief and humiliation of the exiled Israelites, torn from their home in Jerusalem, the First Temple smoldering as they departed. The Temple was destroyed, according to tradition, on Tisha b'Av, the Ninth of Av.
We did rebuild the Temple decades later but lost it again on Tisha b'Av in 70 C.E. Nearly two millennia of exile followed. There were always Jews living in the land, but our massive exile finally ended -- improbably, remarkably, miraculously, and forever -- with the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
Despite our triumphant return to the land, we continue to engage in communal grieving each year on the Ninth of Av, which begins this Monday evening. On this saddest day on the Hebrew calendar, we mourn for other Jewish calamities that occurred on that day (the decree forcing the Jews from Spain in 1492, for instance).
Some believe we should dispense with this doleful commemoration or suggest it be folded into Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. But the Ninth of Av deserves its own observance. For on it we mourn not only Jewish calamities from way back when; we also take the opportunity to lament calamities still inflicted on anyone, anywhere, even today. The Ninth of Av evokes brokenness, not merely our own, but the world's.
There are times to rejoice -- and we do that often. And there are times to mourn. The Ninth of Av is one such time. Please attend our Tisha b'Av service this Monday, 9 pm. Part of the chapel will be dimmed to reflect the darkness of the day. Feel free to bring a flashlight. (Other parts of the chapel will be brighter.)
Rabbi Jeffrey Weill