Av is one of the most challenging months on the Jewish calendar. Either, because you are truly mourning the destruction of the Temple — or because you just can’t relate to this. In the past I’ve proposed a third way, one that reflects on what was lost (the Temple) and rejoices in what was found (modern Judaism via the Diaspora). Av is the month to deal with all the bad and good that has made us who we are as a people and that is not always fun.
You can read all my past thoughts on the month of Av as a primer, if you wish or just dive into the practices below.
The Month of Av begins at Sundown on July 21, 2009, and ends at sundown on August 20, 2009. This essay is an excerpt from the Rosh Chodesh Guides.
What happens when the worlds seems to crumble? How are we able to carry on after total disaster? These are questions that Jews have had to ask far to many times in our history. In some ways it has transformed the tribe into permanent victims, but it has also made us the ultimate survivors. The month of Av is a celebration of survival, if we choose to embrace it this way. Av asks us the question: are you a victim or a survivor?
We (Jews) have an upcoming holiday, called Tisha B’Av. It’s traditionally a holiday of mourning because pretty much everything bad that’s ever happened to us as a people happened on that day. I’m actually all for a collective day of mourning. I think there can be a lot of power in that, but I really find that my thoughts about the central element of Tisha B’Av, the fall of the Temple, are very different than everyone else’s. This is one of the few places that I really haven’t heard anyone talking about where I am on this. Oddly, it was this post about iPods as a metaphor for the body of Christ that made me me want to share my thoughts on this. The post talks about the difference between God being held in the Church and God being in the world, at least that’s how I’d explain it.
Here’s the thing. On Tisha B’Av we’re supposed to be mourning the exile of the Shekhina. So the story goes, when the Temple was destroyed, which was the “home” of the Shekhinah, she was exiled out into the world. But that just doesn’t make sense to me. I see her as being freed to infuse the whole world now. It may have sucked at first for the Jews to be exiled from Israel, but I don’t see every last one of us making aliyah. I like where I live. I can’t mourn the last thousand years of my people’s history. Yes, the destruction of the Temple and Diaspora have been challenging, but that’s made us who we are as a people today.
It’s just like the “exile” from Eden. I don’t see it as an exile. It was time for Adam and Chava to grow up and move out on their own. Life changes. We go through different phases of life, and some can be very painful. Growing up can suck. Moving out on your own is more than a little challenging, but the other option is to remain a child your entire life.
This year, while I’ll observe the official day of mourning, I’ll be thinking more about how we’ve grown as a people and a spiritual path since the fall of the temple. While we may have nostalgia for the “good old days,” how many of us really would go back if we could? Do we really want to see a return to the Temple cult, with it’s privileged priestly class and animal sacrifice? Really? And that’s not a great choice either. Let’s honor the past, but stop reveling in our victim-hood. The Temple fell 2000 years ago. Boom. Dust. Hey — look we’re still here and we’ve come a long way, baby!
Let’s reclaim the Shekhinah and see her as infusing the entire world with her presence and free her from the myth of exile.