Tonight at sundown we enter into Tisha b'Av, a communal day of mourning. On Tisha b'Av we remember the fall of the First Temple in 586 BCE, and the fall of the Second Temple in 70 CE; we remember pogroms and tragedies throughout our history; we remember human suffering writ large; we recognize the brokenness in all creation; we enter into a process of communal teshuvah, repentance/return. For many of us this is a day of fasting and contemplation.
On the afternoon of Tisha b'Av, tradition tells us, Moshiach will be born -- our deepest hopes for redemption, entering our world at our moment of greatest mourning and sorrow. And beginning on the day after Tisha b'Av, we count forty-nine days -- seven weeks -- until Rosh Hashanah, the new year.
In the Tisha b'Av category on this blog are my writings about this day from the last several years, including a few poems (I am partial to As Tisha b'Av Approaches, 2012 and After the fall, 2011); an essay written the first year I fasted on Tisha b'Av (This year's wrestle with Tisha b'Av, 2011); and a series of vignettes from one year's observance at my small shul (Three scenes from Tisha b'Av, 2009.)
I also recommend The journey from estrangement to love to return, a post by Rabbi Sara Leya Schley of Jewish Renewal community Chochmat HaLev. She writes:
Tomorrow night is the 9th of Av, the culmination of period of consciously connecting with our estrangement from self, community and the Divine. Symbolized by the destruction of the Temple, Tisha b’Av brings us to confront what it means to live without a spiritual home, without the place where Shekhinah (the Divine Presence) is always waiting for us. By awakening to our suffering – personal and historical, we create an opening to profound self-awareness. Encountering and embracing the shadow diminishes the power of fear over our psyche.
The wisdom of our Tradition teaches us that mourning our losses, deeply feeling and acknowledging our brokenness in body, mind and soul, creates the opening for renewal. On this darkest of days, Moshiah is born: from the depths of destruction, springs the hope of transformation and redemption. Leonard Cohen famously reminds us "there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in"...
Her whole post is worth reading. In another interpretation (because if there's one thing to know about Judaism, it's that we always have other interpretations, other ways of understanding things) Tisha b'Av is a day of mourning the ways in which not only the Temple was destroyed, but our whole planet is in danger of destruction. Rabbi Arthur Waskow's Eicha for the Earth: the Text a Ceremony of Sorrow, Hope, & Action at The Shalom Center is an excellent read on that front.
Whatever your understanding of this day, and whatever your Tisha b'Av practices are: may your Tisha b'Av be meaningful and profound, a doorway into the transformation of the holy season which is about to begin.
Photo is mine, from 2008; Stones, wall, shrubs, taken at Robinson's Arch. The fallen stones were hurled down from the Temple Mount when the Romans sacked the Temple in 70 C.E.