B. Shira Levine
Navigating new wilderness

Av’s journey from fury to love

At chorus rehearsal the other day, our music director gave a kavanah about the month of Av — a month whose essence is fire. With the upcoming holiday of Tisha B’Av, we experience fury at the destruction of the Temple; this is shortly followed in our calendar by Tu B’Av, a holiday about the power of love.

This is an interesting chapter for me. Fury, yes. Also uncertainty. Discomfort. Bewilderment. Helplessness.  The lovely irony of difficult times is that the feelings of pain that make you extra-vulnerable also open you up to feelings of beauty and joy… here are some of the “love” things I am reveling in at the moment, into which I attempt to channel Av’s fury:

My husband enjoying a traditionalish weekday ma’ariv service and being proud of me for helping create it (you guys really have no idea how big this is) – and also my husband being completely supportive of me in dealing with certain very very difficult and trying circumstances

My daughter playing quietly by herself while singing the whole time, like literally it’s been hours and she’s just playing with her dolls and singing

My 11-year-old friend-niece’s smile that melts everyone

Surprising new and rekindled friendships, bonding over shared passions and/or shared turmoil

Reflecting on the holiness of the work I am trying to do, and the journey I am on, and the appreciation I receive even as I also receive some not-so-nice energy elsewhere.

The honor of making music for HaShem in many ways and places.

One of those ways is that I have the privilege to chant two chapters of Eicha this Saturday night for Tisha B’Av.  Our calendar then signals that we move through the fury on to love.  I’ve never particularly observed Tisha B’Av, and this year seems a very suitable time to start.

Eicha is the megillah / text associated with Tisha B’Av.  It has its own, haunting cantillation / trope.  What I love about the trope is that the phrase “tipcha munach segol” – the beginning of most phrases is major mode, the ends of phrases minor.  Sentences start with joy and end with pain.  Sentences start with love and end in fury.

The English term for the book is “Lamentations,” but the word “Eicha” means something more like “Why? How can this be?”  This single word–beginning and titling the text we use to lament the destruction of our people’s symbolic heart–this powerful, magical, pleading word is my entire existence right now.

About the Author
B. Shira Levine writes about Jewish spirituality and observance, parenting, intersectionality, and the U.S. and Atlanta Jewish communities. Views are her own and not those of her employer, synagogues, or any other organization.
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