Tag Archives: mourning

Tisha B’Av, Kamtza and Bar Kamtza

Despair by Laya Crust

We are coming to the end of the “Three Weeks of Mourning”, the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av is the Hebrew date of the ninth day of the month of Av. It is a day of Jewish mourning, commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem. The first destruction was at the hands of the Babylonians and the second at the hands of the Romans. It meant the loss of our centre of worship, the loss of our home, and the expulsion from our homeland.

Kamtza bar Kamtza 1 by Laya Crust

There is a story of  two men with similar names, Kamtza and bar Kamtza. The men lived in Jerusalem during the time of the Second Temple, under Roman domination. There was a misunderstanding and one of the men was insulted and shamed in front of other people. The repercussions just got worse and worse. Pride and lack of consideration tangled the possibility of a graceful conclusion.

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Kamtza Bar Kamtza 2 by Laya Crust

The story is often studied in conjunction with Tisha B’Av. It is used as an exemplar of how שנאת חינם , baseless hatred and intense social divisiveness, can cause the downfall of a society. If you want to read the story go to http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/404863/jewish/Kamtza-and-Bar-Kamtza.htm

We are seeing extremes in blame and hyperbole in the streets, in the media, and coming from angry world leaders every day.

Conflict destroys communities. People want their opinions to be heard, but often don’t want to listen to a different point of view. People talk over each other. The conversation becomes garbled, unintelligible and angry. Sometimes the conflicting ideas actually mirror each other. We need to listen to others in order to get on the same “line”.

Kamtza- bar Kamtza 3 by Laya crust

We must figure out how we can talk respectfully to those around us. Sometimes we hear things we don’t understand, that don’t make sense to us. The other opinion may sound like babble but sincere discussion and striving for compromise make peace possible.

Kamtza bar Kamtza 4 by Laya Crust

We don’t have to be in lockstep with anyone. We should never accept a stance that is destructive or cruel. But I have to believe that sincere communication can bring if not exactly what a nation or person wants, it can at least bring what a nation or person can handle in a peaceful and constructive way.

I hope open communication will become more widespread among families, communities, countries and regions. Empathy and mutual respect will save the world.

Have a good Shabbat and a meaningful Tisha B’Av,


The image “Despair” is part of the exhibit “ILLUMINATIONS” currently on display at the Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Toronto, Canada. The exhibit includes 88 haftarah images created by Laya Crust, as well as a number of other art pieces. The display is open to the public.

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Tisha B’Av and Poetry

Tisha BAv sigart by Laya Crust

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.

P1090522art by Laya Crust

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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Click to access Sample_of_Translated_Kinos.pdf



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