Tisha B’Av: In the Mind and in the Heart

Most of my posts are done with some degree of research and historical reference.  Although the basis of this post will originate in overall Jewish and personal experience, this particular post comes entirely from the heart.  The wide range of emotions felt by any one individual make up who they are and although there are many, the 2 primary ones are joy and sadness.  Emotions are impacted by our level of maturity.  This does not necessarily imply that one is immature if they do not feel certain emotions, but that who we are and how we have grown, positively or negatively, will impact our emotional responses.  I say this because when I look at how I feel about Tisha B’Av today compared to years back, the difference is significant.

I’ve always known the religious and historical reasons for the commemoration of Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av.  It is said that both Jewish Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, many years apart, on the same day, Tisha B’Av.  The city burned, people died, and the greatest physical symbol of Judaism was destroyed twice, on the same calendar date.  Since the Holocaust, Tisha B’Av has held greater meaning as it is used to recognize the loss and sadness of the Jewish people during that horrific time.  And yet, through so many of my adult years, although I always intellectually understood the importance and acknowledged it to different degrees, I would be dishonest if I were to say I truly felt sad.  This was until a few years ago.

So what changed?  I did not become more observant.  I am still someone who for right or wrong, picks and chooses what Jewish laws I keep and which ones I do not.  No one sat me down and gave me a speech to influence my feelings.  And yet, tonight, as I sit and write this on Tisha B’Av, I feel a genuine sadness.  I credit much of how I feel to the impact the writing of the book had on me.  However, not in the way one might think.

My experience in writing the book had me immerse myself into the world of my parents between 1940 and 1945.  How fortunate I was to feel at times as though I was there with them yet never actually be hungry, desperate, cold, hunted, and in constant danger.  I imagined I was there yet at no time was my life ever threatened.  What this did was teach me one of the most important and poignant lessons of my entire life.  It’s not all about me.  We all live our lives that consist of the good and the bad.  Many do live with some degree of fear or danger.  I do not, and I thank God for that.  But today I am a different person.  I am now someone who understands that it is not only my personal suffering and tragedy or that of those close to me that matters and should cause me true sadness.  Tisha B’Av is a day to recognize the sadness of others and to allow ourselves to truly feel it with emotion, not just intellect.  A day in which my own personal growth has now given me the opportunity to put myself in someone else’s shoes and see past my comfort and freedom and be truly sad for the pain and suffering of the Jewish people.  Now on Tisha B’Av my heart feels what my mind always knew.  I once heard a Rabbi compare Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur and how we fast full days on both saying, on Yom Kippur if one truly understand the awe of judgment by God, who would be able to eat?  And on Tisha B’Av, knowing the true sadness of the day, who would want to eat?  That makes sense to me now, not because I understand it, I always did, but because now I feel it with true emotion.

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