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.
Endings bring beginnings.
Lamentations bring change.
In the graveyard sleep sheep, who should be on the range.
Tend to the sheep.
Care for flock.
Celebrate the now, but mourn what is lost.
Practice 1: Lamentations – Collective Mourning
If summer is all about fun, food, and festivals, for you — then the idea of spending part of July and August reading Lamentations, known as Eicha (אֵיכָה) in Hebrew, might seem more than out of synch. But that is part of living in Jewish time. Syncing yourself to the Jewish wheel of the year, not the secular one. Av, which falls during the months of July and August, and Elul, which is during August/September, are the months of harvest and preparation for the High Holidays.
To me, reading Lamentations is not about wallowing in all that is wrong with the world. Just like everything with the Peeling a Pomegranate approach to spirituality, my take on the traditional Jewish concept of PARDES.
- At face value, admiring the beauty
- Exploring, without study
- Study with expertise and guidance
- Integrating the work on a soul-felt level
And as with everything in Peeling a Pomegranate land, I encourage you to explore traditional translations and modern interpretations and explorations. This Av, let Lamentations into your life. See at which level you can engage with it. See what effect it has on you and how you engage with the world. Do you find that it makes you feel despondent or more optimistic? Does it make you feel angry or relieved?
Resources for the Practice of Reading Lamentations
- Velveteen Rabbi:
Remember too that Tisha B’Av is the first holiday of the month. We collectively mourn and then we rebuild. So a second practice for the month may be more resonant for you — but I recommend trying them both in succession.
Practice 2: Tu B’Av – Collective Resources
Tu B’Av falls on the 15th of Av, and although it is a little discussed holiday these days it provides the second practice for the month to explore. The polarity of these two practices is, I believe, where the power really comes from. Here’s a quick Primer on Tu B’Av for those who need it.
Where Tisha b’Av is collective mourning, Tu b’Av is collective celebration. So yes, you could throw a party. But the key practice is the sharing of clothes. In ancient Israel, all the maidens came out and danced in white dresses on Tu b’Av — but not a dress that was theirs. They all wore a borrowed dress so you couldn’t tell who was rich and who was poor.
To engage in this practice consider:
- Cleaning out your closets and donating clothes to Goodwill or other service organizations
- Donating one pretty decent suit to Dress for Success
- Having a yard sale (one person’s trash is another’s treasure)
n the graveyard sleep sheep, who should be on the range