Another Nine Days have come and gone, and we gratefully give a sigh of relief knowing that these days of deprivation – no meat, no swimming, no showering, no music, culminating in a 25 hour fast – no food or water – are finally behind us, and the rest of the sun-drenched summer is there for us to enjoy.
Within days, the tragic realities which the Nine Days represent are relegated to a distant storage bin in our warehouse of memories, to be dusted off in 12 months’ time, when the next Nine Days come around. That is the way human beings operate. Unpleasant happenings are quickly discarded if they do not affect us directly. People go to hospitals, funerals, to shiva houses, and they genuinely feel awful about the specific situation, but the adage “out of sight – out of mind” holds true. We go on with our lives as soon as we walk out the door.
During the week of Tisha B’Av, we mourn the destruction of the Temple and centuries of tragedy and exile, but for many, it is more of an intellectual exercise. We acknowledge the ruinous event that happened so long ago, but I sense that for many, we are basically paying a shiva call – we are upset, even tearful, but just for a moment. The loss of the Bais Hamikdosh doesn’t really affect our day-to-day lives, at least not in America, not for the current generation of Diaspora Jews. We come and go as we please, without fear, hesitation or restriction. The only thing stopping a person from living la vida dolce are his/ her self-imposed limitations.
I find myself disturbed by my own lack of awareness of how terrible galut is – cushioned by a comfortable and relatively safe North American lifestyle. However, when I say galut, I am including a pre-Moshiach State of Israel. Today, Israel lacks peace and harmony from both within, as religious and secular factions bicker and fight over economic and cultural issues, and externally, as fanatical Muslim factions fueled by blood-lust murder, maim and mutilate indiscriminately.
And of course, there is the predictable, self-righteous indignation from hypocritical international governments who condemn, censor and criticize Israel for employing self-defensive measures. Israel is “damned if they do – and damned if they don’t.”
I try to rectify my “head in the sand” oblivion by taking a time-out every day and reading The Jerusalem Post and Arutz Sheva on-line. Almost daily, a smiling, “eyes brimming with life” photo of a young soldier, or that of a child, or a young mother, or a man eager to take care of unfinished business, look out at me. And accompanying the photo is an age, and a mention of a status – son, daughter, fiancee, spouse, father, mother, grandparent – and a description of how he/she came to a premature and violent death.
And because we are all related, I often see someone I know, or that I feel I know. Sometimes there is a passing resemblance to my own kids, or a friend, or colleague. Or maybe because I know that their dreams and goals and aspirations were the same as mine. And it becomes personal – and real.
The next day, there is the follow-up photo of grieving relatives, their faces exploding with grief as they fall on the coffin in a desperate try to get in one last hug, before the physical essence of their loved one disappears underground.
And for a few minutes, I see and feel the churban. I understand its horror and I finally experience Tisha B’av on an emotional level. Until I click off the web-site. And let my sugar-coated reality rescue me from grief. Until the next day. For like a bitter pill that must be taken daily, we must experience a brief taste of Tisha B’Av on a regular basis, so that we will reach out to our Heavenly Father with genuine tears, and hasten the ultimate Redemption.
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