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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Tisha B'Av

Tisha B' Av is a day to mourn, reflect and regret. It's a prescribed day to mourn for Jerusalem and her inhabitants, wars and unfathomable losses over the years. It's also a day to know that war can be waged with fire, hunger, bullets, spears, bombs, but also with words. Lies and deception and causeless hatred is also part of the miserable mix of today's wars. Tisha B'Av is day to look backwards with regret, but also a day that should give us cause to reflect and consider not repeating the same blunders of the past.

The rabbis of the Talmud spent years trying to figure out why the temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were dispersed from the land. They talked and pondered and grieved. Things haven't really changed. After a mass shooting takes place, talking heads, politicians and opinion makers talk endlessly, trying to figure out why the shooting happened and even more people state what needs to be done. (What is ever done?). That same familiar cycle circles round for the pandemic, for the economy, for foreign relations and most of all, for anything our current president tweets about. Now, in the midst of this pandemic, billions of words are spent in trying to understand why and what could have been done differently so that this disease would not be the reality in our world. Words are cheap; particularly words said after the fact. Memory and reflection are important, mostly because we never want to repeat history; we only want to learn from it.

Tisha B'Av teaches me something else about words. It teaches me that words can be used as much as a building tool as they can be tools of destruction. From the depths of despair and mourning, through the use of their words, the rabbis created something new. A way of life, certainly different, but rich with tradition, was fashioned from the ashes. A rending of something new that even millennia later still works. Can we say the same about what we are living through now? Are we doing too much talking and thinking and tweeting about problems without using words to create solutions? We do a lot of talking past each other and we can't even seem to be able to find common language anymore to speak about important issues with people who disagree with us. It feels very much like the time before the dispersal and the destruction.

Tisha B'Av is that warning clock that says that we are 5 minutes before the midnight of nuclear destruction. Each year we look at the nuclear clock and can say that we have been given fair warning to do something to stop us from destroying the planet. The Tisha B'Av clock is giving us a stark black and white, crystal clear warning that we are 2 minutes to midnight. We have to stop talking and start doing. We have to stop insulting and find common ground. We have to stop the lies and tell the truth. We have to find love in our hearts for each other, even if we are different. We need to do this for the greater good. Like the rabbis of the Talmud, we need to find solutions to a myriad of problems that are burying us. We are warned that words can bring us to destruction and death. We need words to elevate us, to construct for us, to bind us to bring us to a better place. This is the lesson of Tisha B'Av.

For further reference:

For those of you who read this blog, please forgive that I am posting twice in one day. The next post is a series of photos on the theme of mourning and a playlist. I just couldn't put them with this post.

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