Tisha B’Av, Brokenness, and Longing

Pigeons in the cleft of the rocks at the Western Wall. Photo by Ruthi Soudack
Pigeons in the cleft of the rocks at the Western Wall. Photo by Ruthi Soudack
Two years ago on Tisha b’Av, I went to the kotel in the middle of the night. As always, that place on this day threw me into a spin of contemplation, and I wrote the following, about feeling the brokenness of the world, and the longing of the Jewish people for tikkun, for its fixing. Little did I know that, two years later, that brokenness would be amplified unimaginably.
Deep into last night, on the fast of 9 b’Av (which actually took place on the 10th of Av), I went to the kotel. Down the slippery stone steps of the Arab market, through the security pavilion, and there it was, spread out in front of me, the Wailing Wall, its plaza full of people there to mourn the destruction of the Temple at its holy remnant. On both the men’s and the women’s side there were circles of young people singing quietly, mournfully. I continued towards the wall, through crowds of praying or sobbing women of all ages and ethnicities, some sitting on low stools, others on the ground. I approached the wall, stood close to it, looking at its stones, the pairs of pigeons in the clefts of its rocks, and I was overwhelmed by the amount of brokenness that exists in the world. In the external world, where we hate and judge, in which cell phones have replaced spirit. Where there is war and bloodshed, dishonesty and disregard for life. Cruelty. Loneliness. And in our internal worlds, in which we each face our demons, in which we each face our pain, and on the deepest level, we always do it alone. I looked at those hundreds of thousands of notes crammed into the cracks between the rocks, each one expressing someone’s desire to fix those brokennesses, however large or small, in whatever large or small way.
Those millennia of longing are all here, in these stones, in this space, present in the prayers and songs of those who come here to take part in it. To be a piece of a massive collective heartbreak, a massive collective longing for a world with less brokenness, for a Jerusalem whose inhabitants love one another for no reason. A world in which we see God’s image in one another, regardless of faith or origin. In which we look into one another’s eyes instead of into our cell phone screens.
That longing is such an integral part of the Jewish people, of our innermost emotional being, that I wonder whether I really want it to end. Who would we be without this aspect of our identity? Who would we be without the mournful fiddle tune that is the soundtrack of our subconscious? Can we imagine, truly, a world of unmitigated joy and love? Can the wishes in those hundreds of thousands of notes be granted, and can the prayers of the millions and millions, both dead and alive, be answered?
Dream it. Be it. Create it.
About the Author
Ruthi Soudack, originally from Vancouver, arrived in Jerusalem for a short visit three days after the beginning of the first intifada, and has been here ever since. She is a traveller, yoga teacher, writer, translator, editor, storyteller, musician, and occasionally, a stand-up comic. (Profile picture by Shira Aboulafia)
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