Tisha B’Av- a day of mourning on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av
Readings- Lamentations written by the prophet Jeremiah, poems of sorrow (kinot) by Jewish writers from throughout history
For many Jews Tisha B’Av is the most difficult day of the year. It is a fast day (no eating or drinking for about 26 hours) during which we reflect upon many tragedies that took place on the 9th of Av throughout history. The destructions of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem (586 BCE and 70 CE), the fall of Bar Kochba’s outpost at Betar (135 CE), the expulsion of the Jews from England (1290 ), the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492), and the commencement of World War I in 1914 are some of those disasterous events.
We are a people of words. Words, specifically poetry, convey despair, angst and loss more effectively than any other medium.
section of Eicha
The Book of Lamentations is attributed to Jeremiah , the prophet who lived at the time of the destruction of the first Temple. Eicha is a book comprised completely of poetry. The searing desolation of the people- their hunger, loss and despair are experienced and described. The reading of The Book of Lamentations is followed by readings of shorter poems or kinnot . The kinnot (dirges) were composed by various writers and authors throughout our history. These writers recognized that the pain of persecution and expulsion was not limited to the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The disasters continued with crusades, pogroms, expulsions, the public burnings of Torah scrolls and sacred books, the holocaust, and even more recent massacres.
The beautiful and searing poems were written by notable scholars and poets such as Rabbi Elazar Hakalir and Rabbi Judah Halevi. Many congregations add modern kinnot to the traditional list and even have “kinnot slams” to involve and express current events.
Tisha B’Av is a time of reflection not just of oneself but of history, nation, and community behaviour. We are surrounded by enemies. Not just those who want to destroy us as a people or destroy the country of Israel, but enemies such as greed, selfishness, and egocentricity. Those traits lead to not caring about others, not helping others and the fraying of beautiful communities.
This Tisha B’Av I hope you read the rich poetry of our nation and make it a healing experience.
Have a meaningful week,
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