Co Authored with David Abramowitz, President of the Jewish Leadership Institute
Tisha B’Av will begin in less than thirty minutes East Coast time. It’s a fast day on the Jewish calendar. It’s a sad day that commemorates the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. and the loss of Jewish sovereignty in our land of Israel. If you have ever been in Israel on Tisha B’Av, you would be shocked to see that it feels very much like a festive occasion. After waiting 2,000 years we got Israel back in 1948, and in 1967 the Old City of Jerusalem became ours again. No one could imagine being without either again, and tens of thousands of people jam the Kotel in celebration to confirm this.
And that’s how it’s been for many years. The sheer joy we feel about our homeland has made it difficult to grasp the emotional essence of Tisha B’Av. But not this year. Jewish children have been kidnapped and killed. Thousands of rockets have been shot at us. Dozens of tunnels have been dug into our land for sole purpose of doing harm to Jews. What if these things didn’t happen, and I had you simply imagine them as an exercise to get you to understand Tisha B’Av. In imaginary form, you would be horrified. In the concrete, you reach a real, visceral understanding of the meaning of Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’av is about another act of imagination: What would your life be like if we didn’t have Israel? How would you feel? What would you do?
This year in particular forces us to face the (sadly) eternal truth of Tisha B’Av: we Jews always survive, but there’s always someone who doesn’t want us to. The name of the commemoration is simply the date (unlike Passover or Chanukah). It’s the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av. An interesting point to make: Av is the eleventh month of the Jewish year. So Tisha B’Av is 9/11. Every year. That’s the reality of Jewish history.
But there’s a flip side to Tisha B’Av. We happen to live in a time when Israel is ours, and can defend itself. The day should motivate us to recognize the gift that this moment in Jewish history has bestowed on us.
Jews fast so we can feel. You should fast for at least some part of the day. You should pick a time frame, and don’t eat or drink. But do feel.