Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Usefulness of the Fast on the Ninth of Av

Many of my fellow Jewish bloggers have written their impressions on this most somber of holidays, Tisha b'Av, a day God has imbued with danger and punishment for Jews throughout history. Both of our holy Temples were destroyed on this day; major holocausts throughout history are connected to it, and we are to focus our sadness for the failings that brought these events, and our own failings in this time of mourning. Few secular Jews realize that the calendar is balanced between joyous and sad days, but no time has the cosmic dread of the Ninth of Av.

I write this in the "home stretch," just three hours before the end of our 25-hour fast. Here in the Northwest, we can again hydrate ourselves and wear leather shoes and bathe (relief!) at 9:10 pm. I am already sitting on a normal chair, instead of the low hassock on which I wrote my previous post. But as with any of our six fast days...the home stretch is the most arduous part of the process.

Like my fellow J-bloggers, I have a tough time getting into the spirit of the day. Summertime is the most glorious here, with flowers in bloom and delightful temperatures and trees verdant and drooping. As we ate our "third meal" yesterday on Shabbat, knowing it was our last food until 9:10 tonight, God provided the most glorious rainbow across our view over Lake Washington, so brilliant it made me gasp. I know, however, that the rainbow is an ominous sign, suggesting that God upholds his promise not to drown us all as in Noah's time--though we probably are deserving of it. Similarly, the now-clearing summery day, with its cerulean sky, is not conducive to mourning, especially for historical events that intellectually I know are beyond what I can grasp in their horror.

It is for those reasons that we have the useful "home stretch." For if we fail in feeling sympathy for our people and our own lacks, our bodies remind us--we are needy. We are dependent. We are arrogant when we believe we can skate without the constant provision of God. In thirst and hunger, we can feel serious and even cry--understanding to the smallest degree the devastation about we read last night in the book of Lamentations--Eicha! A cry of desperation, the wail of the child being punished. I am connected with my people, if even for just a time, in realizing the depths of our errors and the significance of our losses.

Just a few more hours. I could sure use an iced Starbucks.

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