The sweetness of Shabbat will overtake the sadness of the 9th of Av this year. For we are not allowed to be sad or mourn on Shabbat, which is literally “God’s day” – Yom L’Hashem!
The tragedies that befell our people throughout history, especially on the 9th of Av, seem like a breach of God’s covenant with us. But Shabbat reminds of the opposite, that His love for us is eternal, and that there is hope for closeness and rebuilding.
I will fast on Sunday not specifically because I need to atone for myself, like on Yom Kippur, but because I love the Jewish People, and know that my remembering and soul-searching on this day help repair the broken connections which brought on our communal suffering in the past and perpetuate tremendous suffering still today – physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Just as it is a mitzvah to be joyful, there is a place and time for collective mourning, and Tisha b’av is that day.
It is quite amazing how Megillat Eicha expresses, in aleph-bet acrostic form, the full gamut of emotions from catastrophic loss and suffering, including moments of hope. As if reminding us to be present in these terrible moments and fully express our rage and despair:
עַל אֵלֶּה אֲנִי בוֹכִיָּה עֵינִי עֵינִי יֹרְדָה מַּיִם כִּי רָחַק מִמֶּנִּי מְנַחֵם מֵשִׁיב נַפְשִׁי –
I cry over these, my eyes pour water, for far is the one who can comfort me, return my soul. ( Eicha 1:16)
שִׁפְכִי כַמַּיִם לִבֵּךְ נֹכַח פְּנֵי אֲדֹנָי . “Pour out your heart like water before God.” (Eicha 2:19)
And how striking, that the fifth and final chapter of Eicha is in plural form, expressing the healing power of community.
הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ יְהוָה אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה, חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם.
“Return us God to you and we will return, renew our former days.” (Eicha 5:21)
When we are together on this difficult fast, we pave the way to stronger connectedness with God and each other the rest of our days.
On the Talmudic statement, “One who mourns Jerusalem merits to see her rejoicing…” (Taanit 30b) Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev explains that that the Hebrew word for deserve/merit “zocheh” is phonetically related to the term for refinement (“hizdakekut”). By mourning Jerusalem, we refine ourselves and achieve the level of one who deserves to see Jerusalem’s rebuilding.
Shabbat shalom! To a meaningful fast and great comfort ahead.