July 26, 2023
Tisha B’Av begins tonight at sundown. Together we enter into shared sorrow and loss. Known as the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av provides us with a communal outlet to remember, mourn, and confront. We remember the unspeakable tragedies that have struck Am Israel, the people of Israel. We mourn ancient losses, including the destruction of the two temples. And we confront the harsh reality that evil and hatred exist in the world. If we lean deeply into the meaning of Tisha B’Av, we will inevitably encounter more than shared historical loss–we will also feel the urgency of contemporary concerns and challenges, along with our own personal losses.
One place we may be feeling this most profoundly right now is with Israel. Built on an inspiring foundation of justice, equality and freedom, Israel’s democracy has been eroded over the past many months. The country is in a state of upheaval as societal divisions shake Israel’s bedrock. It is distressing to consider that Israel’s Temple of Democracy is at risk of destruction as we enter into the observance of Tisha B’Av.
Sinking into the solemnity and darkness of this day, opening to grief and loss rather than flinching and turning away from it, offers us the possibility of transformation. When we authentically confront what we’ve lost, or fear we are losing, our stress and sorrow lighten. In this place of vulnerability, transformation and renewal are possible.
After falling all the way down to the bottom rung on life’s grand ladder, we begin to climb out and up. In Hasidic tradition, this is known as Yeridah tzorech aliyah, descent for the sake of ascent.
Rabbi Alan Lew, Z”L considers the beginning of the High Holy day season, not Rosh Hashanah, or even the first day of the month of Elul (the preparatory month that precedes Rosh Hashanah). Rather he teaches that Tisha B’Av marks the beginning of this potent time on the calendar, and it invites us into a reflective time.
Tisha B’Av beckons us into the emotional landscape of grief. From this place we rise. We become aware of what truly matters in our lives. When the month of Elul arrives, we are poised to begin the reflective work required for the new year.
Join us this evening at 8:30 pm for Tisha B’Av services. Together we will descend, holding each other through the dark places. And then, together we will ascend into the light.