We are on the eve of the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. As a young child, I had great difficulty connecting to the somberness of this day. I recall going with my father to Synagogue, sitting on the ground, and reading pages upon pages, filled with the calamities that befell our people. I felt so disconnected- so far away from it all. It seemed so foreign, yet I can never forget when reaching the heartbreaking story of the ten martyrs of the Jewish people, and watching my father read these lamentations, tears streaming down his face. I didn’t know what to make of it, but I knew that something tragic had befallen my people, and that it took a special kind of person to connect and to appreciate the devastating loss that we had suffered as a nation.
Years have gone by, and I am still confused and bothered by the concept. How can tradition dictate an emotion? How can we suddenly be commanded to be sad and mourn, even if we are so far removed from the concept? Are the motions all for naught? I’m perplexed by the commandment to mourn. I am confused by the dictate to show deep sorrow and sadness – not based on an emotional low, but on a timing that was prescribed to us over 2,000 years ago. Core emotions are about real feelings. Sadness is about loss and about disconnect. It is perplexing, therefore, that we are expected to mourn, simply because the calendar turned to a date that has such historic significance.
In reality, however, a deeper analysis of Tisha B’Av is warranted. Those who believe that we mourn simply for the destruction of an exquisite edifice, are sorely mistaken. Those who imagine that sitting on the ground and limiting ourselves from bodily pleasures are meant solely to assist us in mourning for a time that we simply cannot relate to, are missing the point. Tisha B’Av is not at all about the loss of a building. It’s not even about the loss of so many of our people on one day, but rather it’s about a loss of a way of life. It’s mourning the loss of the beauty and tranquility that G-d had infused in his people. It’s mourning a time when the world was Tov, was wholesome and beautiful. It’s crying for a way of life and connection to G-d that has been forever altered.
Tisha B’Av is a day to mourn our personal loss – the loss of dreams and hopes that we had as children. The loss of the beautiful and innocent naivety that we grew up with. For many of us, it’s about a loss of relatives under tragic circumstances, and for many more, it’s about the loss of our homes and deep hopes and aspirations. Tisha B’Av is a day to mourn the death of our dreams. Think not of this day as a day of mourning only for G-d’s home, but in painful reality, for us in the divorced community, it’s a day to mourn what was. It’s a day where we come to terms with the harsh truth where one of the greatest decisions we ever made in life, failed. The Talmud tells us that each time a home dissolves, G-d sheds tears for the loss. How many tears have we shed along the road of separation and divorce? How many nights have our children gone to sleep, yearning to have both parents at home?
Divorce sears the heart. It creates a chasm that nothing in the world can ever completely heal. But the fallout of divorce is often so much more. We lose way more than the insular walls of a beautiful home. We so often lose a community, friends, and family that were hitherto the fabric of our daily lives. Divorce is often compared to death, but in many ways, death has so much more comfort. The Torah prescribes in exact details, the process of mourning; the different stages of grief, and the ultimate healing that G-d bestows upon those who have suffered loss. Can that really be said for divorce? Has our community created a halfway house of acceptance, love, and support for those who have been through and are suffering the pains and fallout of divorce? Is there a single book or manual that helps us rebuild our lives? How often are divorcees shunned by their own community? How often are single parents spending Shabbat and holidays on their own, because of a community that is not sensitive enough to the needs of this group?
The Orthodox community has mastered the art of Chessed and outreach. For every ailment, and for every woe, there is a group and a charity. But when you go through divorce, the directory is bereft of community resources that are accepting and inviting, and will give a warm touch and a sincere smile. The sad fact is that divorcees are viewed as the stepchild of the community. It is not pity that we need; it is not charity that we want. It is warmth and acceptance. Parents need it, but our children demand it. Often they are “orphaned with parents”, suffering so many challenges on a daily basis, and being the silent victims of a community’s indifference to so many people suffering.
So when we think about Tisha B’Av this year, we don’t need to travel 2,000 years in a time machine to a world that was all pure and lofty. We can simply think about our own lives – the actions and decisions that we have made, and contemplate and consider the pain, the loss, and the disconnect that we so often feel. The mandate and instruction that we take from our tradition on this, the saddest day of the year, is not only a mandate of mourning, but one of introspection. It is direction from the Torah to stop, to be real with oneself, to be introspective and honest, and to realize and accept the harsh and often painful realities in the aftermath of decisions that we have made.
But if there is one lesson that Tisha B’Av teaches us above all, it is the beautiful lesson of hope. It is the realization that it is always darkest right before dawn, and after the darkest night comes the most beautiful day. In the very same Synagogue where we will shed tears tonight and tomorrow morning, we will return, tomorrow afternoon, and reaffirm that G-d will be the “Menachem”, and that G-d will bring our salvation, and that only He, with his infinite kindness, can bring us true comfort. Our community sadly needs no lessons in mourning. It needs no manual in how to express the devastating loss that we have suffered. What we need is hope, more than anything.
Let us pray that Tisha B’Av brings us to a new plateau in our relationship with our Creator. It is He who has promised us the rebuilding of the temple, and it is He who will ultimately heal and guide our fragile and broken hearts. May He wipe away our tears, stand with us, and grace us with His never-ending blessing and comfort. May He fill our days with hope, and our hearts with love. May He help us rebuild our homes, to be a replica and a tribute to His great home, one brick at a time.