Do we cry enough?
About the Chatam Sofer is said that before Tisha b’Av he locked himself in a room, learned Echa, and cried so much that he filled a glass with his tears. During the seuda hamafseket, the last meal before the fast, he drank his tears, as in Tehillim 80:6: ‘You give them tears to drink in great measure’.
Some people don’t want to mourn the loss of the temple. Which modern Jew still wants to be associated with animal sacrifices? Was the churban, the destruction of the temple, not a blessing, so we could install more contemporary traditions? Shouldn’t we abolish Tisha b’Av alltogether?
It is good always to make the best of something. And it is even better to take time to mourn. Loss is quite something, and in the course of our lives we do experience loss regularly. Even if we deal with it really well, not mourning often takes its toll later. Therefore Tisha b’Av is a necessary part of the Jewish year.
We need oxigen to live. But we can only breath in if we also breath out. The list of calamities to remember of our people is long. Also in our personal lives we experience losses: loss of health, of loved ones, of work, of a home, the end of a stage of life, and ultimately the loss of our life. Some losses just hit us. Other losses we choose: we leave a partner, a house, a job. But even then the process of taking leave is somtimes painful.
Mourning is a necessity. About everything we lost we mourn on Tisha b’Av. We also mourn if something good came in its place.
Tisha b’Av is also the beginning of the year cycle of teshuva. In parashat Devarim, which we always read in the week of Tisha b’Av, the root peh – nun – heh, turning, changing directions, is found seven times. Seven weeks before Rosh haShanah we turn towards teshuvah. We count the Omer back, from malchut shebemalchut to chesed shebechesed, 49 days, to prepare ourselves for Rosh haShanah. We turn away from our alienation from ourselves, from others and from haShem, from keeping up appearances, and we turn towards acknowledgement of our grief. Grief about what we did not succeed in despite our good intentions. Grief about intentions that maybe weren’t totally good. Grief over the denial of who we are. Grief over forgetting the mission of our soul in this lifetime. We turn away from our defenses. We turn towards a renewal of being connected. Being connected in the first place with our own soul. Being connected with the consciousness of what we are supposed to do here. Being connected with taking responsibility, for our own deeds and for the world. Tisha b’Av is our first step on our way to Yom Kippur, when we can experience total at-one-ment.