This Thursday marks Tisha B’Av, the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av. Traditionally it is considered a day of mourning, commemorating major tragic events in Jewish history, including the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. In the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6) a number of other tragic events are said to have happened on this day as well.
While Reform Judaism recognizes the day, it does not emphasize it as a fast day or a day of mourning as do traditional Jews. Reform Jews typically do not pray for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Exile was not the end of Judaism, as Jews, and Judaism, thrived in the Diaspora. Yet, we empathize with our Jewish ancestors and the pain they felt at the loss of such an important part of their Judaism.
Gates of Prayer, our predecessor prayer book to Mishkan T’filah contains a combined Tisha B’Av and Yom Hashoah service. A mediation from that service found on page 575 reads as follows:
“The intelligent heart does not deny reality. We must not forget the grief of yesterday, nor the pain of today. But yesterday is past. It cannot tell us what tomorrow will bring. If there is goodness at the heart of life, then its power, like the power of evil, is real. Which shall prevail? Moment by moment we choose between them. If we choose rightly, and often enough, the broken fragments of our world will be restored to wholeness.
“For this we need strength and help. We turn in hope, therefore, to a Power beyond us…”
That “Power” of course is God. God as Comforter, God as Sustainer, God as Inspirer of Hope. Tragic events are still, unfortunately, part of our world. In the face of difficult times today, and any which my come our way in the future, may we always choose life, turning to God to find strength, comfort and hope.