Forced out of England, and France, and Spain.
Or how on this day in 1941 the Nazi Party approved
"The Final Solution," the mass graves, the gas chambers.
Or the old claim that we make matzah with their childrens' blood,
or the cartoons that show us hook-nosed and greedy,
money-grubbing, conspiring, defiling the world
with our stubborn insistence that we deserve to exist.
What gets me is that these hatreds persist.
In every antisemitic flyer and QAnon meme.
In every synagogue shooting.
In the uneasy fear that we might be next.
And still somehow we’re meant to look inside, to do the work,
To seek justice for those who have it worse than we,
To make things right with those we’ve harmed,
And if we must, to die like our ancestors –
– with the Sh’ma on our lips.
R. Rachel Barenblat
It's almost Tisha b'Av. This is the new piece I wrote this year for that somber day. If it speaks to you, feel free to use it and share it.
I wrote it after traveling in Israel this spring. (And no, I'm not writing today about what's happening there. This is not that post.) I was profoundly struck by the reminder of how many peoples have hated us and tried to wipe us out. It's history I've always known, of course. But it lands differently now. Once I had the luxury of imagining that antisemitism was outdated and fading away. With the ugly rise of white nationalism and "Christian nationalism" both here and elsewhere -- with the reality that my synagogue now keeps its doors locked -- with praise for Hitler coming from public figures -- every Jew I know lives with the sickening awareness that there are people who want to exterminate us. Most of the time I keep the fear and grief at bay. But Tisha b'Av is in part about letting ourselves feel the things we keep at arm's length. We let our walls come down and face what feels annihilating. From the other side of that brokenness we begin the ascent to the Days of Awe.
And -- this feels really important to say -- if you are a trauma survivor, do what you need for your own safety. If letting your emotional or spiritual walls fall would harm you, don't do it. I can't say this strongly enough. The spiritual practice of opening ourselves to what's broken is a different thing altogether for someone who already suffers trauma's shrapnel. If that is you, maybe it's not safe for you to break open, or maybe you don't need the reminder of brokenness. Stay safe and whole.
If you're looking for other resources for Tisha b'Av, here are two at Bayit that I find deeply powerful:
- Hymn for the Hurting, R. David Evan Markus' setting of an Amanda Gorman poem in Eikha trope
- For the Sake of Ascent, last year's offering for Tisha b'Av from Bayit's Liturgical Arts Working Group