We interrupt your summer to bring you…TISHA B’AV!
In the middle of winter’s cold and darkness, we have Chanukah and its candles – warmth and light, joy and food. In the bright heat of summer, our tradition offers a “dark night” and a “black fast.” Makes sense, right?
Actually, it does. For our ancient ancestors, being farmers and shepherds, the summer was an anxious and worrisome time inclining toward despair. If rain was the common experience of “redemption,” a gift from above on which we rely, then its absence could spell doom and gloom, a sense of “God’s absence.”
And so we telescope all the doom and gloom of the ancients’ summer into one evening and day. Onto to this human experience we’ve grafted the commemoration of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the loss of God’s dwelling place among us, our own exile and alienation from God/liness, and a host of devastating experiences throughout history. “The Ninth of the Month of Av” became the container for all of our lament, all of our woe.
But there are two kinds of darkness. One is full of tears and sorrow, loss and absence, disconnect and destruction. We “cry” to the chanting of the Book of Lamentations. And crying is a good thing. I have spoken in past years about the “courage of vulnerability.” But there is another kind of darkness, a “nourishing darkness,” where we can begin to look for and find the Beloved we long for. “He has set the darkness for His hiding place,” as the psalm says Tisha B’Av offers us the opportunity to experience both aspects of this “dark night of the soul.”
Join us as we hit an emotional and historical “bottom” from which we can rise and set our sights on the heights of joy to come with Sukkot. We begin the journey with the destruction of one “house” (God’s dwelling, the Temple) and end with the building of another “house,” the sukkah. The trajectory is from sorrow to joy, brokenness to wholeness. If this High Holy Day season is to speak to us (and it’s coming up soon!), then we have to be there when the mouth opens.