This week we began the Jewish mourning period leading up to Tisha B av- the ninth day of the month of Av. Considered the saddest day of the year for the Jewish people, it recalls the destruction of our holy Temple, in Jerusalem.
An interesting episode in the Talmud.
As Rabbi Akivah and the sages are walking over the ruins of the temple, the scene of foxes scurrying over the smoldering rubble overwhelms the sages with sadness and they tear their clothes in mourning, their luminescent faces awash with tears.
Rabbi Akivah too, rends his garment, but then begins to laugh and dance atop the ruins! What a scene, the grieving sages on one side, and the jubilant ecstatic Rabbi Akivah, dancing – on the other!
Another surprising and delightful tradition, the Messiah is born on Tisha Bav! How do we process these mixed messages? The paradoxical message of Tisha Bav is in the way it encompasses both.
It is a day to reflect on our communal history, our bitter defeats and frequent oppression- yet at the same time also acknowledging our miraculous ability to rebuild, rise from the ashes, and outwit history (Thanks Aaron Lansky!) forever standing poised to write the most glorious chapters of our beloved narrative.
As a student of Chassidus (Jewish Mysticism), I have been trained to instinctively turn inwards with whatever is going down in my life. That includes this paradox, and the ability to see how that would look, mirrored in my own soul. This gives me a chance to potentially reframe whatever drama is being played out in my life right now, in a higher and healthier way.
Here is what that exercise might look like in this instance.
Even as we are aware of the holes in our lives, of the destruction in our personal Temple, of our pain places, causing us to cry out with the “sages”, we must also take an opportunity to acknowledge the blessings in our lives, of being surrounded by love and goodness, and “laugh” with Rabbi Akivah.
All the places in our lives where we feel destruction in some way, wether its the loss of a loved one, conflict within families, lost opportunities, a sense of vertigo, lack of drive, loss of interest in life, overcoming betrayal, living without passion or faith, living with loneliness, struggling with addiction, or living with anger and sadness, are our personal “Tisha B av” moments, and experiences.
The one thing they all have in common is the way they keep us locked into feeling life from the limited, specific place of that pain, blocking our awareness of the latent, dormant, divine “ joy” dimension lying just beneath the sometimes scorched earth of our inner landscape.
From that place we cry with the sages.
In order to unlock the real mystery of our lives, our highest and deepest, selves—we must also learn to laugh with Rabbi Akivah.
Because laughter is both an expression of faith, and an actual tool that can take us there.
A faith that reassures us of our ability to rediscover our wholeness, and reclaim our abandoned joyfulness.
A faith that somewhere deep within each of us – tucked into the corner of our consciousness, lies a jar of oil with an unbroken seal, a place of innocence, untouched by our experiences, out of destructions reach.
A faith that becomes the Messiah – ladder that enables us to climb out of lifes deepest Tisha b Av pit.
A faith that leads us to the place within where the Messiah hides.
A faith in whose newfound softness we can be rebirthed—rekindling our lights as we joyfully rebuild the Temples of our lives.