Tisha B’Av is a reminder of some incredible loss… both of our Temples (586 B.C.E. and 70 C.E.), and a variety of tragedies and other massacres that befell the Jewish people. It is a day where we fast for 25 hours, cannot bathe or study Torah and we mourn. We remember the Crusades, pogroms and the Holocaust. We mourn.
Lamentations is filled with visceral imagery of loss, and expressions of Hashem seemingly abandoning us. It is hard to read. It is brutal in parts. And yet there are also lessons of beauty and things to do to change our course. And one need not look any further than our own world and current crisis. Loss, death, sickness… We mourn. We mourn.
In Isaiah 58:6-7 we read and learn this:
“No, this is the fast I desire:
To unlock fetters of wickedness,
And untie the cords of the yoke To let the oppressed go free;
To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry,
And to take the wretched poor into your home;
When you see the naked, to clothe him,
And not to ignore your own kin.”
Even in the worst of times, even in the greatest sadness, we can still do good, we can still be kind and take care of our fellow humans. And this, we must!In his weekly Thursday class, Rabbi Avi Rabin teaches us that negative experiences come from two places, from the world (which is evident in our current health crisis and Covid) and from interpersonal relationships. And sometimes, we can hit from both at the same time. That is one of the things I am most struggling with… that life, which is hard enough, still goes on during Covid. It just makes some things even MORE challenging.
So how do we get through these difficulties these difficult times and negative experiences? How do we get stronger and grow, and move forward in a better way?
In a recent interview with Marc Maron, Seth Rogen goes off on a lot of subjects, including Israel and Judaism. Unfortunately, he is way off base on Israel, and clearly needs some better education and information. But he does make a point to talk about the brilliance of Jewish mourning and Shiva. And it is brilliant. We are given incredible guidance on how to mourn, how people can and should help and support us, and how remember and move forward.
Of course, another challenge is the inability to fully sit Shiva these days, but that is a conversation for another time. I do question that, and would love for Hashem to explain to me the loss of so many things that are so important to Jews… and Judaism… It greatly challenges me… It makes me question and moist definitely makes me upset. But then I realize I cannot know, I cannot understand, and that yes, Hashem has a plan.
Avi says: “Everything that is happening in life is happening for a reason. What that reason is, we don’t always know.” So you can take this to mean we are helpless… that Hashem controls all. But that would negate the fact that we have Free Will. And we also can control our minds.
As my friend Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld often says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” If we truly have faith and strongly believe in Hashem, we see the things we can change and do have control over, and we are okay with the things we do not. Well, perhaps we are not “okay,” but it should give us some comfort. If we believe and have faith, there is little room for fear.
So what actions can we take? What can we do? Avi taught us the three steps according to Chasidism…
1. Understand the problem and re-engage your mind. Let yourself see the problem for what it is. And know if it is truly a problem or an inconvenience. They are different!
2. Ask yourself how will you respond to the circumstances and what will you do to remedy the situation.
3. Finally, discover how you can learn and what you can learn from this experience.By doing these three things, you are taking the chaos out of the situation and regaining control. You are being proactive and productive.
When you actively connect with Hashem, allow yourself to mourn and move through, and learn from every person and every situation, you will grow. And even in the darkest of times, there is light… Even in the saddest of times, there is joy, even in the ugliest of times, there is beauty. We all need to see it, find it, dig for it and discover it, and we all need to embrace our faith and the control we do have. If we do this, the seeds we have planted and toiled over will blossom and grow, and so will our souls, and our minds and our hearts. Even in the darkest mourning, we will find the light of day.