The end of last week brought us to Rosh Chodesh Av. Although July is a time that many of
us are enjoying summer vacations and time in the sun, Av’s most notable feature is a time associated with mourning and loss. Our tradition teaches that on Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av), which begins at the end of this week’s Shabbat, both Temples were destroyed — the first Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. Other catastrophes are said to also have afflicted the Jewish people on this day throughout history. Traditionally Tisha B’Av is a fast day, and shares many of the rituals more generally
associated with Yom Kippur.
Liberal Judaism focuses more on the historical rather than spiritual nature of the destruction of the Temple, and, therefore, Tisha B’Av is not one of our major observances. In addition, for many Jews the founding of the State of Israel 70 years ago marked the end of exile brought about by the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple. Yet, we still have a responsibility to understand the meaning of the day to our tradition and to many in our larger Jewish world. The traditional reading for Tisha B’Av is Eicha, the Book of Lamentations, poetry which externalizes the destruction and is considered by many to be the quintessential dirge of biblical literature. Eicha, ends with a plea to God, “Take us back, Adonai, to Yourself, and let us come back…” (Lam. 5:21), a message we can all take to heart and use to carry us into the next month of Elul, and the High Holy Days that soon follow.