Jul 19, 2010

Tisha B'Av Cometh!

Jews the blog-o-sphere over are blogging about the impending fast of Tisha B'Av (literally, 9th of Av) that begins tonight and lasts for 25 hours through tomorrow evening. We eat a big meal tonight, followed by a hard boiled egg dipped in ashes, and then we begin our fast. We go to shul, we hear the reading of Lamentations, and we spend the day avoiding work, not wearing leather shoes, sitting low to the ground, and reflecting on the day in the Jewish calendar that seems to swallow up all the of the bad things that happen to us.

Four years ago, I wrote about my experience fasting on Tisha B'Av and my frustration with one Jews approach to Tisha B'Av for Secular Jews. Three years ago, I wrote about my frustration with the sentiment that on this day we "mourn for a life we no longer want." Two years ago, I wrote about how I felt distant from Tisha B'Av, as if I were just going through the motions.

Last year, of course, I was in Middlebury, Vermont, attempting to deal with the whole "kosher catfish" situation and touring the "kosher" kitchen on Tisha B'Av while attempting to stay sane amid classes without air conditioning in the steamy and humid Vermont heat. I was, in a word, miserable. I also was feeling pretty distant, again, from Tisha B'Av, focused, instead, on my exhaustion and the heat.

What was I doing prior to four years ago? I'm not sure. I can't remember whether my Reform experience back in Nebraska necessitated me fasting, and from what I can tell about my writings of four years ago, I'm guessing that's a big "no" on fasting and/or seeing any significance in Tisha B'Av as an active and important day in the Jewish calendar.

So what does this year mean for me? I'm not sure. I'm all the wiser, much busier, and not looking forward to fasting. As I get older, I find my body less and less accepting of fast days. I will, however, have the option of studying the necessary texts related to the day.

In reality, the one thing that's on my mind is that as soon as Tisha B'Av comes and goes, it's time for the High Holidays. Yikes. Seriously?

What I do want to leave you all with is a question: Can you carry out the mitzvah of being sad and mournful on Tisha B'Av in the manner that all mitzvot are carried out? With happiness?


Karen Zampa Katz said...

(this is from my post on my blog....)

I "do" Tisha B'Av...many would think...so what, your Jewish,right?...well it appears that in my world, a Conservative Synagogue in suburban New York, compared to Yom Kippur, not so many take on the mitzvot of this day. I will go tonight, I will fast, I will go tomorrow.Yet I find this ritual hard. It is hard to fast no matter when it is done, but without the collective energy of the full community I find it harder. There is something empowering when we all do it together. I do try to summons up the energy to think about all the other Jews in the world who are participating in this ritual and use that to help, but there is something different about the power of the collective energy when you are in the middle of it.

Perhaps I am missing the point, but I also find it difficult to get "sad" for this day when thinking about it in the traditional way...the destruction of the Temples etc.... I tend to think about it as the day we use to remember all the suffering, all the pain and all the terrible things that have occurred to the Jewish people throughout the eons. I am basically very happy, I use the practice of mindfulness to help manifest more peace and more serenity in myself daily. To purposefully throw myself into sorrow, can be tough for me. There is enough current suffering in this world to conjure up more. I am not an ostrich I know there is "bad stuff" happening everywhere, yikes even in my neighborhood...but to dwell on suffering is difficult. I prefer to think of it as honoring those who have suffered and honoring our collective traditions.

How do you do Tisha B'Av?

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