Thursday, July 26, 2012

Confronting Reality - Thoughts on Tisha b'Av


How do we respond today to a holiday that is a full day fast, that marks events that happened 2000 years ago, and that current opinions and events seem to somewhat have rendered obsolete?    

These are the challenges we confront in observing the holiday of Tisha b'Av, the Fast of the 9th of Av, which we will observe this Saturday night.  It is a holiday marking the destruction of the First Temple in 586BCE and the Second in 70CE and it is also a holiday that commemorates the many other disasters that have befallen the Jewish people over the years.    

Some in Conservative Judaism raise objections to the holiday.  Some say that with the establishment of the modern state of Israel, it is no longer necessary to mark a holiday that has at it's core the remembrance of our dispersal from Israel, neglecting the many other catastrophes that we also remember, and neglecting that as Jews we have survived precisely because we remember our past; even when we are comfortable and protected we remember that often times we have not been.  Then there are others who simply object to a fast day and all its attendant rituals as being out of step with the modern world, ignoring what I've mentioned before, that it is not a bad thing in our lives of too much to be without for a little while.

We should reject these challenges as at the same time we embrace the observance of this difficult holiday.  Not only for the reasons I have mentioned already, namely that as Jews we have an obligation to remember our past, relive it, and also remember that life is meant to be meaningful, not easy.  But we should also observe the holiday for another reason as well.      

Maimonides quotes Lamentations, which we read on this day, "It is not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil comes" to remind us that evil is part of our world, and holidays like Tisha b'Av remind us that we have an obligation to confront it.  That doing so is difficult yet that it has been a challenge the Jewish People have had to face numerous times.  So may we do this year and always.
Shabbat Shalom, 
Rabbi Benson