Tisha B’Av Confession

July 29, 2009 by

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It’s here again-my annual Tisha B’av confusion. As usual when I’m searching for meaning, I went to my friends. “Why do you fast?” I asked them. “What does Tisha B’av mean to you?” They cited a variety of things, from mourning a fractured Jewish community to the perpetual derth of social justice in the world. The answer that resonated the most with me, however, was that of my friend who said, “On all other holidays, we talk about how they tried to kill us, but we escaped. Tisha B’av is about how they tried to kill us, and they did.”

In my life as a progressive activist and Jewish educator, I spend a lot of time thinking about change, growth, encouraging people to open themselves to each other, assuming good will. I’m part of a movement that pushes back against those that there will never be peace because of the innately metaphysical nature of the conflict between Jews and Arabs. “They” (the anti semites? The Arabs?) will always want to kill us, so we will have to fight. It’s a perpetual state of war for Jewish survival.

My knee jerks when I hear this. There must be a reason for this, right? How can such baseless hatred exist? Surely as a people, this victim mentality can’t be good for us. It’s this that leads us to a cloistered, fearful community that excludes those who aren’t like us; it’s this that’s preventing Israel from acting moral towards the Palestinians, towards its own people.

It can’t be real. But there it is, in Eicha, in history books, in the newspaper. They tried to kill us, and they did. Our worst fears about the nature of humanity come to fruition, even though we want desperately to believe otherwise. Perhaps Tisha B’av is as much about recoginzing the existence of evil and its ability to exist and perpetuate itself in the world as it is about a physical destruction.

I’m not sure where all this leaves me in terms of fasting. In spite of my mental and spiritual fatigue, I’m feeling galvanized. There is so much work to be done in this world that is broken and smarting, and we need endless energy to fix it. But then, maybe that just calls for a different sort of food.


[For another view on Tisha B’Av and Israel, click here]


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