It’s not simple after Tisha B’av to get back into routine. Like many, I had anticipated this day of mourning for the last three weeks. Before the 17th of Tammuz and during the three weeks also known as ‘between the straits’ I have witnessed calamity after calamity in many parts of the world. While there is so much discrimination amongst us, G-d does not.
I am consistently reminded of His dominion over the human race. I marveled at the kindness of the couple who offer their garden as the location for yoga classes. As a student I don’t only learn to breathe properly, I also receive a bonus lesson in nature. During eagle pose, my shaky balance is supported by the sturdy bark of young tree. During triangle pose, I hear birds nestled amongst sounds of trucks honking and the ‘ta-ta-ta’ drill of ongoing construction. In plough pose, I look heavenwards.
Pesky mosquitoes with their annoying penchant to indulge on me for their mid morning snack have just as much a right to live in this world as I. When they leave their calling card I am irritated to no end. I now practice detachment with anti-bug spray. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could also apply a lotion to deter people who bother me too?
Whilst I walked home from yoga I heard a car slowly driving behind me. I moved between two parked cars on the narrow street to give the car right of way. As the white SUV passed, I noticed the triangle on its roof indicating it was a learner driver. The teacher sat in the passenger seat. On each car door was a phrase in large bold black print – a quote translated into English as: “Hashem is King, Hashem reigns, Hashem will reign forever.” There it was, just in case I thought that I was in charge of my day.
Since living in the holy city of Jerusalem, I have observed the last few hours of the fast in the very place where G-d’s spiritual home was destroyed, not once but twice. There is no argument to stay home when I have the choice to pay homage at the very scene of the tragedy. I walked to the bus stop in the searing heat. I weaved my way towards Jaffa gate. I seemed to go against the sway of traffic noticing many people who were taking leave of the old city.
As I neared the outer city walls, I noticed a father explaining history to his three young sons. I passed security, and sought solace at the back of the Kotel plaza, leaning against a temporary wall that was a barrier to the ongoing construction behind it.
To my right sat a large Sephardi family – grandmothers, parents, and siblings including three gorgeous boys ranging in age from about four to seven, each swathed in thick black hair and the darkest of eyes penetrating their faces. Three large coolers bag waited patiently next to them in anticipation of the end of the fast, or perhaps a celebratory meal that we all yearned for – the return of G-d’s precious physical home – the Beit HaMikdash. To my left sat a woman from Netanya. Originally from the Bronx, she and her husband made aliyah when their children were toddlers, both of whom had met dated and married during Covid.
I am always struck by the different colors of Judaism on display at the Kotel. I revel in seeing the beauty in each of G-d’s precious children. I met Zahava, the most exquisite person with delicate soft skin, a beautiful smile and her cherub like equally exquisite daughter and son. I stood amongst circles of NCSY boys on their summer trip from abroad. Their voices comforted my soul. Instead of wilting in the heat, I absorbed their spirit and energy as more people gathered, creating circle after circle. I saw an older man sitting on a low chair singing with as much heart as the teenagers. When I looked towards the entrance area, crowds seemed to just pour in. How different to last year on the same day during Covid when the kotel stood alone and bereft of its people.
The sweltering sky turned to dusk. I saw the half moon watch as people swayed arm in arm singing the words of “Ani Mamin” – I believe. Arching my neck, I noticed border patrol police high above on the bridge that links the kotel to the Temple Mount. They were rooted like the moon, observing us. I may not have known the name of the women to my left and right, but I felt the same closeness as I do to my oldest childhood friend. We hoped, we waited and we prayed to be redeemed, to witness the miracle and joy of the arrival of Moshiach – a true leader from the House of David to rule our people as a leader should.
As darkness approached and the singing echoed into evening prayers, a friend invited me to join her at Robinson’s Arch. I found myself many feet below, adjacent to the Kotel plaza. I stood at the edge of a platform where my prayers swayed in the wind. I cast my eyes down on misshapen stone blocks strewn in an erratic way – stones that had fallen centuries ago. I wondered how many of these edifices represented holy souls that died in vain upholding the Laws of the Jewish people.
It was time to leave. Reluctantly, I took in the moment, so close to history I could practically smell it’s essence. In reality, far away from a time I know not of. A stone to the left drew my attention. I looked to the source – it was electricity from spotlights etched into the landscape. A prism of light had left parallel lines on this stone reflecting off a glass banister. The colors lines were a modern day rainbow. How ironic. Noah came to mind. After warning people for many years that a massive flood was brewing, only Noah and his family took caution. The rest of mankind were confident that they could withstand a storm. Instead, the only living beings that survived were Noah and his family.
Here in the very place where the Temple was destroyed, G-d in his usual understated way had sent a small sign. It was time to come home.