Tisha B’Av looks different for everyone this year.
For me personally, emotions feel extremely mixed. I’ve recently made Aliyah with my family after extreme efforts and miracles, thus making this time of mourning and sadness difficult to actualize. Feeling as though I have experienced my own Geulah and celebration, I’ve come to realize this heavy weight that is sorrow, needs to be carried on the behalf of my national connection.
A quote from a Rav lingers in my mind and constantly reminds me to reframe the way I approach Torah observance and all aspects of life:
“Even if I’ve done a mitzvah, but someone hasn’t done it—then there is an element of me that hasn’t done the mitzvah.”
The fundamental idea that our connection as an individual is so significant to a whole; a grander cause and reality that extends not only beyond our current circles, but those of the past and future. Among approaching the history and what seems to be an unfortunate eternity of Tisha B’Av this cursed time for the Jewish nation, an elaborate pattern of pain and suffering surfaces the notion of personal responsibility and progressively becomes more real.
I feel happy, I feel secure, I feel redeemed.
But not everyone else is.
With the weight of pain in the world, the active reality of oppression, to groups affiliated to me and especially those completely not. I cannot fully be free, until I can serve to create a reality that rains redemption onto everyone.
Due to the circumstances of Covid-19, the passangers on my flight to Israel were only returning citizens and those who were making Aliyah. Of that group, were a large amount of young men and women on their journey to dedicate time, energy and the risk of their life to defend the state of Israel as Lone Soldiers. This group was so lively, so ecstatic to belong and be responsible to a cause much grander than themselves.
I find it so inspiring that the wording of certain phrases reveals so many deeper truths. For example, one does not “work in the army,” they “serve.”
The word Serve has such a deep connotation and association to inferiority, a position under dominance that strips them of their power and freedom. However, when I realize the placement of this word in context of an army, it is a driving cause that dedicates itself to improvement, to freedom.
In a shiur I heard by Rabbi Pinchas Landas, he recalled a beautiful story about the Imrei HaEmet (a famous Chassidic Rav). The young learning men were concerned as they were told to focus their prayer on the “‘אנא ה” phrase located in the prayer of Hallel in order to relieve the sufferings and stresses of their life. However, upon not receiving their personal redemptions, they reproached their inquiry. The response of the Imrei HaEmet, to me, beautifully packages my message.
In proper Jewish fashion, the Rav answers his students with a question, “What ‘אנא ה phrase of the prayer was your focus being sent to?” To this the students responded, “Of course the time where we plead to G!d for salvation and relief!” The Rav in his wisdom came to a conclusion, the conclusion that there was a significant misunderstanding. The phrase the students were directed to focus on was not the plea of salvation, but rather the phrase: “אנא ה’ כי אני עבדך ” – “Please G!d, Because I am Your Servant.”
We are free, thank G!d, we are free to serve. We are free to dedicate every moment of our day, our lives to serve. Serving not under the definition of slavery and life without choice, but rather to a life with meaning and purpose. We live to create and craft freedom; not only redeeming our spiritual and physical selves, but to redeem every single person around us.
We fast, reflect and humble ourselves on Tisha B’Av, with the firm belief and anticipation of national redemption. We serve to correct the pains of our ancestors and to equally protect the reality of freedom for our future generations.
I find the national drive and purpose of this day equally painful as I find it empowering. We have been granted an opportunity to extend our good deeds, our experiences; our exiles and redemptions are placed into infinite existence.
There is another concept that I felt so deeply represents the essence of what the “I” can do for the “We.” Rav Yaakov Rahimi shared the concept that the most recent Bet Hamikdash was not destroyed upon the Jewish exile, rather the holy temple and resting place of Kedusha is underground.
The pinnacle of spirituality and freedom to serve G!d rests below the surface, which to me emulates the purpose of our “service”. To dig deep, soul search and spread. To unlock our inner temples; to understand our special and irreplaceable role in the blueprints of creation. We redeem ourselves to redeem the Klal (whole).
With all of this and more in mind, I pray, hope and wish everyone not only a meaningful and impactful fast, but for this Tisha B’Av to be a responsibility to redeem ourselves, as well as an opportunity to actualize our freedom to serve.