Six years ago, I spent Tisha B’Av hopping from one psychiatric hospital to the next. I was nine months pregnant at the time, it was hot and sticky, and I was trying to help a friend. Some of the details are blurry to me now, there was a phone message a day or two before. Not to me, to someone else, saying she had had enough. We couldn’t reach her cell phone, and didn’t find her at her apartment so we sent the police to find her. It was a Friday morning, of course. Friday afternoon, she was found and another friend took her to the hospital but she refused to be admitted. He took her home to his family for Shabbat and they all watched her like a hawk.
Sunday, Tisha B’Av, was my turn. I got up that morning, drove half an hour to where she was and convinced her to get in the car with me. “We all want to help you.” That’s all I could think of saying. We drove in silence to Eitanim, a psychiatric hospital in the hills near Jerusalem. It was such a hot day. I was so heavy, my almost-4-kilo baby was kicking me all the time, and it was hard to move. We walked down the path past the gate and she was terrified. I was terrified too. We sat in the waiting room and saw a couple of ghosts walking by. They were just like you and me, but they weren’t. Something in their eyes… It was the same something she had in her eyes. Maybe that’s why she got so spooked and said, “Let’s get out of here.”
I was not, and still am not, trained in this area. I don’t know how to handle emotional trauma, or how to take care of a person who has no desire to take care of themselves. Someone who is so desperate that their cry for help is: “I want to end my life.” But I took her because we had no choice. She had no one but us to care for her and we weren’t going to leave her alone.
The three weeks. Just a couple of days before, I was trying to get my friend admitted at the hospital, I was admitted to the hospital myself. The other kind… The baby-caring kind. I was driving in Har Nof and got into a fender bender. The guy in front of me slammed the brakes because two little boys ran into the street chasing their ball. Since he slammed the brakes, I had to slam mine, but it was too close and too quick and I hit him. Luckily, he did not hit the boys. I got out of my car all shaken and hysterical and kept yelling, “Are there kids in the back of your car? Are there kids??” I was so scared I had hurt this man’s children by hitting his car. He looked down at my stomach and immediately made me to go to the side of the road and sit down. He took my car keys and moved my car to the side of the road, and then moved his car. The kids had scattered by then and it was just us. He calmed me down and told me it was just him, I didn’t hurt anyone and he didn’t hurt anyone. He brought me water. Asked me if I can feel my baby kicking. Told me to call someone. Gave me his number and told me I should feel well and to please update him after observation and let him know that my baby and I were OK.
I needed proof of life. I needed this baby to live. I went with my husband to the hospital and told them I was in an accident. I was really fine. Not even bruising that was visible. But as soon as they heard about it I was rushed into a trauma room and so many doctors and nurses were hovering over me and checking every inch of my body.
The baby’s heartbeat is strong.
I am strong.
I was put in observation for 24 hours and then discharged. “Come back when you are ready to have your baby” was the hopeful farewell I got.
Tisha B’Av has always been a difficult day for me. To feel the sorrow and the loss of something I never got to smell, to hear, to touch. The different stories we read Tisha B’Av night and morning help set the tone for the day, but they are still so far away in time that it is hard to fully connect and mourn. So I do what I think many people choose to do. They bring in their own stories of sorrow, loss, pain, and try to channel those feelings on this difficult day. For the last six years I can’t seem to shake these two stories from my mind. I associate Tisha B’Av with the fear of hurting others, and the fear of others wanting to hurt themselves.
The feeling of helplessness is the worst. If you have met me for real or through the social media you know that I like to focus on the positive. We may be in the middle of a construction project and also in quarantine, but hey! We have ice cream. Silver linings are my thing. Finding a way to put a smile on your face is my thing. And Tisha B’Av is the hardest day for me. More than Yom Kippur! (Because hey, at the end of Yom Kippur, the plan is to be forgiven.) But Tisha B’Av is the ultimate day of sadness. And I have seen sadness. I have smelled and touched and experienced the sadness others couldn’t contain in their souls. And I absolutely hate this day.
I was teaching one of my Ulpan students recently and told her that this week we will need to postpone class because her lesson lands on the saddest day of the year. She, not being Jewish, asked me why. I told her that the First and Second Temple were destroyed on this day. We lost our place of worship, we lost our place of ultimate connection to G-d. She looked sad when I told her this, and again, since I’m all about the silver lining, I told her not to worry. We also believe that the Third Temple will be rebuilt on this day. This day will no longer be a sad day of mourning, it will turn into a wonderful day of celebration. Maybe then I will finally be able to put these stories out of my mind.