Rethinking Tisha B’Av

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.

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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.

Learn more about Tisha B’Av

8 Replies to “Rethinking Tisha B’Av”

  1. Very well said! I really like your point of view about that. I heartily agree with you, and will adopt your POV myself. Thanks for making a positive out of a negative!

  2. Interesting midrash, Carly.

    I take Tisha B'Av in several parallel ways, really. I utilize it as a day of fasting as meditation: thinking about various levels of exile from other humans, non-human nature and the specific exile for Diapora Jews from that literal landscape of Israel that I believe birthed our culture.

    I also think of it as a day of soul descent, that I align with Baal's decent into the underworld (Mot) from the Ugaratic Baal cycle. If you know anything about the ecology of the Levant, that time of year is deathly hot and dry.

  3. (Ooops)
    So for many, this is the time for access to the ancestors instead of the autumn in more Northern climates.

    I certainly agree with you sentiment of prefering divinity that's accessable anywhere and everywhere. I tend to think the Holy of Holies was a political move that was a reality at the time yet nothing I want to return to, either.

  4. Aron,

    As always — great ideas. I hadn't thought about Tisha b'Av and Baal's descent. I know nothing about Levant, but I do know how deathly hot DC can be this time of year. Hot and damp, but same idea.

  5. What a beautiful column! I have very ambivalent feelings about the fall of the Temple — I've always had issues with the idea that the Shekinah (or any aspect of God/dess) dwells more in one place than another. (People fighting and killing over "holy sites" seems to me a form of blasphemy, not religious fervor.)

  6. These thoughts really help me think about tisha b'av. My inclination was not to mourn, but to celebrate the destruction of the Temple as the best thing that ever happened to Judaism. Rabbi Kanter spoke of this as a day of national mourning and introspection in contrast to yom kippur, a day of personal introspection. And when I look at the state of Israel and the way they are dealing with the Palestinians, I don't see a whole lot of national insight happening there. You have helped me put these conflicting thoughts in perspective.

  7. To have a dialogue with myself across time, I think now of Tisha B'Av now as sense of relationship, where was honor times to mourn on the 9th then honor times of loves to retain wholeness on the 15th, Tu B'Av.

    I certainly fine it difficult to want to an actual return the the Temple of old. I'd rather honor the entire earth than just that of Israel.

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