On Tisha b’Av, we are reminded of the destruction of the Temple and other tragedies in Jewish history. Ritual is both an aid to memory and an insistence that our sorrow be within limits.
Shiva prescribes that the mourner must stay home for seven days, but only for those days. The walk around the block after shiva is a return to the world. The meal after the funeral begins this process; limitations on mourning are not suggestions. You are not permitted to say Kaddish after the designated time. Tisha b’Av is a fast day, but afterwards you are not to continue fasting. Judaism believes in memory and honors pain, but creates limitations to ensure that life is not about death, but about life.
In the midst of mourning, we envision salvation. We read Eicha, the Book of Lamentations, on Tisha b’Av. Tradition ascribes the book to Jeremiah, who foretold and experienced the destruction, but also redeemed his ancestral land in Israel. “For thus said the Lord of Hosts, God of Israel: “Houses, fields and vineyards will again be purchased in this land (32:15).” Jeremiah was a prophet; he knew mourning should not and would not last forever.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).