Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tisha B'Av - A Day of Mourning

Tomorrow night, (Monday, August 8th) begins Tisha B'Av - the 9th of Av. It is the Jewish day of mourning. It lasts until nightfall on Tuesday, August 9th. This is the day where we remember all the destruction that's befallen the Jewish People over the last 3000 years.

It's a tough day. We fast - not eating or drinking, don't wear leather shoes, we don't wash ourselves, we don't have marital relations, we don't even sit in proper chairs. Why?

We're mourning for the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It's hard to mourn for something we've never seen, touched or generally think about... ever.

Perhaps we need to think about it this way. Having the Beit HaMikdash in existence was a representation of having a close relationship with G-d. There was a physical presence of the Almighty where we could see it. In today's world, it is very hard to see G-d, much less feel that we have a real personal relationship with Him.

Most of our lives is spent in the physical world - eating, drinking, working... This is all is fine and good - but to what end? Do we eat and drink in order to work harder? Do we work harder in order to have time to have food to put on the table? Is our life spent running in a circle?

The Beit HaMikdash represented something more. When it existed we had an easier time being in touch with our spiritual side. We ate and drank in order to be able to do Mitzvot - the Commandments. We realized that our existence was more than just going to work everyday - our existence is all about serving G-d, the King of Kings.

A short example to explain. There's a television show called The Apprentice. It began with a handful of young entrepreneurs competing with each other in order to win the opportunity to work with Donald Trump and perhaps run a small part of his company. It would be a tremendous learning experience - plus a huge plus to put on their resume.

Now while Trump would be quite an interesting fellow to work for, and no doubt would be an amazing work experience - this does not compare with working for the President. And to even clarify it even more - it would not even come close to working for the King of Kings, the Master of the Universe.

But all of this is hard to imagine.

It's easy for these special days on our calendar to come and go - not noticing the difference between one day and the next. Tomorrow night take a moment - take off your shoes, and think about Jewish history (if you don't know any - go get a book). The book we specifically read on Tisha B'Av is Eicha - Lamentations. It's a sad and short story of the destruction of the First Temple.

While Tisha B'Av is a day of sadness - we know that in the future it is supposed to be a true happy holiday. A day to celebrate.

How do we get there? How do we transform such a dark day to a day of light? V'Ahavta L'reiecha Kamocha... Loving your neighbor as yourself.

We have to love each other. The closeness to G-d that we are missing without the Beit HaMikdash has to be filled with closeness to our fellow Jews. We need each other. We need to search out our elderly who live without friends and family. We need to search out our poverty stricken (yes, there are those). We also need to search out those who are unaware of their Jewish heritage - starting with ourselves.

It's time to bring the light of the Beit HaMikdash into this world - and bring ourselves closer to our Jewish neighbors. Go say 'hello' and introduce yourself. It'll only take a minute.

Tisha B'Av and the 3 Weeks -
The Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av - Destruction & Renewal -