Dear WJC Family,
What a gift it was to have the opportunity to take a break, spend some time with my family, some time alone, some time on mountaintops, and some time with new friends and old. The break was truly healing and rejuvenating. As you can see, I even got to introduce Shabbat to some new friends who’d never experienced it before – fun and delicious!
I have returned just in time for Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, which will arrive as Shabbat ends on Saturday night. Tisha B’Av commemorates the anniversary of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, along with several other tragic events in Jewish history. We observe the day as a major fast – a full 25 hours of no eating or drinking, bathing, anointing (putting on perfume) or sexual relations – just like Yom Kippur. In fact the Talmud teaches: Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: Whoever eats and drinks on the Ninth of Av,it is as though he eats and drinks on Yom Kippur. We are talking about a day that is really somber and serious.
So that makes it all the more peculiar that according to tradition Tisha B’Av is also going to be the birthday of the Messiah. How could this ultimate moment of redemption, this final turn of history towards beauty, justice and holiness, occur on the very day that has been cursed for the Jewish people for thousands of years? This teaching reveals one of the foundational truths of the Jewish faith: we accept that there will always be ugliness and tragedy in the world, but there will also always be beauty and holiness. You can’t separate the two, but you can learn to notice and connect with the good rather than letting the chaos dominate your life.
Jewish mitzvot are often about calling forth the holy and beautiful from the mundane and ugly. That is how we regularly bring redemption to the world and experience a beautiful life even in the midst of hardship and chaos. I hope you will observe Tisha B’av with us, including the meal prior to the fast on Saturday evening, my teaching in honor of the holiday after the meal and for the haunting recitation of the Book of Lamentations after that. For the timing and location details, click here. All events will be available online and live, with the chanting of Eichah outside (weather permitting) so those more comfortable coming in person outside can do so. Perhaps by observing these mitzvot together, we too can call out some of the beauty and holiness in these chaotic times.
And prior to that, join us for a lovely summer Shabbat – Friday evening at 7:15 the cantor and I will be leading services in the sanctuary and I will be speaking. Saturday morning we will have our usual summer lay leadership – see details below.
This week’s Torah portion, Devarim, always precedes Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. In this week’s video, we explore the connection between the reading and the tragic holiday and the lessons we might learn from the relationship.