Tisha b'Av is the one day of the year when most Torah study
isn't permitted -- at least not in the traditional Jewish
understanding. We can study Eicha or Eicha Rabbah, or Jeremiah or
Job, but we're not supposed to delve into parts of Torah which
might bring us joy, since joy is dissonant alongside the awareness of
suffering that this day represents.
I often see blogs in terms of the lived Torah of human experience,
the holy texts of our lives as they unfold. So is reading one's blog
aggregator antithetical to Tisha b'Av? I'm in no position to decide
that for anyone -- but should you be online today and browsing
the blogosphere, and wishing for reading that
explores the themes of Tisha b'Av, here are some links
to blog posts I'm finding valuable today:
Elf at Apikorsus Online has a comprehensive
roundup of Tisha b'Av-related posts from the last few
years. She links to folks across the religious spectrum: here are
posts from rabbis and laypeople who practice Judaisms ranging
from Orthodox to Reform, exploring the day through a wide variety of lenses. It's especially useful, and interesting
to me, that she breaks the roundup into sections: first "general" (a miscellany of excellent posts), "the
contemporary problem" (how commemorating 9 Av is different in the
modern world than it used to be),
"liturgy" (how and why the traditional liturgy is fraught
for many modern Jews), and "personal reflections."
At Radical Torah,
Aryeh Cohen offers a view of Lebanon
through the lens of Tisha b'Av, exploring the midrashic
notion that God looks to us in order to learn how to mourn,
and asking difficult questions about the ethics of what's
happening in Lebanon these days.
And at Soferet, Avielah offers a transcript of a teaching by
Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein entitled
The transformative call of Tisha be-Av 5766. I was particularly
struck by how R' Marmorstein links a teaching about the words ×¨×¢× (ra'ah, wicked)
and ××× (tov, good) in the Biblical story of the spies
to the Baal Shem Tov's teachings about the need to love one's shadows.
(If that's a little dense for you, Avielah's recent post
more personal and perhaps more accessible.)
Speaking of personal and accessible, a story.
Last night toward the end of the study session which followed our service,
a congregant asked an unanswerable question about how we can respond to suffering. In response, I said something like this:
It's always my temptation, at times like these, to find a way to look
on the bright side. I want to find a way to make things better, to turn
from despair to hope, to argue that everything's going to be okay
and that we can make the world a better place. But I don't think that's
the right answer for tonight. On erev Tisha b'Av, we can't go there yet.
Our obligation tonight is to witness the brokenness of the world.
Maybe by late tomorrow we can begin moving toward
a place of hope, but for now all we can do is sit with the awareness of
As today wears on, may we find ourselves capable of sitting with the sorrow of Tisha b'Av without yielding to the temptation to put a band-aid over the
suffering. Today we are all hospital chaplains, ministering to the world
with presence and the willingness to face what hurts even when it hurts
more than we think we can bear. And by tonight, may we find a way to move
through this, and to rededicate ourselves to the work
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