Converting to Judaism

The Oys and Joys of Choosing A Jewish Life

Tisha B’Av: A Time of Mourning

on August 5, 2014

This evening marks the end of Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month Av on which Jews fast in memory of the destruction of the First and Second Temples. It’s a day for general sadness and mourning, and Eicha, the Book of Lamentations, is usually read.

I think I might have gotten it all wrong this year. I almost missed this day just because… I forgot. I should have put a note in my planner or something. It wasn’t until after lunch as I stood in the kitchen baking a cake that I remembered I was supposed to be fasting. Now I’m sitting here trying to grasp all the sadness that goes into this day and somehow make up for forgetting to mourn.

There’s a lot to be sad about. From biblical persecution to the horrors of the Holocaust to the current conflict between Israel and Gaza, sadness has touched every Jewish generation to walk this earth. I often feel connected to this collective sadness, and G-d, it hurts so much. When I listen to bubbe’s stories about the Holocaust or see the faces of the fallen IDF soldiers, the pain scattered throughout Jewish history comes alive in a very real way.

I embrace so much sadness that I don’t know what to do with all of it. I just stand there holding it in my arms as it gnaws away at my heart.

I can relate to the sadness that I see in the world, but it’s harder to connect to the destruction of the temples that occurred years and years ago. I know of a camp counselor who, on Tisha B’Av, asked all her campers to lay out their most prized possessions on the floor. They all sat in a circle and imagined that the item had been destroyed, going around one by one to describe why that particular item was so important.

Destroyed. Obliterated. Your most precious possessions, gone from the face of the Earth. Picturing a loss of this magnitude makes my heart ache and a little panicky, and then I remember that the loss of the temple is real and part of this heart-rending sadness… It’s almost too much to take in.

If my ramblings fail to capture some of this sadness that I feel, music tends to evoke an emotional response in me. And whether you listen to these recordings of a cantor chanting the trope from Eicha like I did or you find another minor melody, it’s my final offering of sadness. A last cry in the dark of the night.

It’s so easy to turn a blind eye to suffering. Don’t be like me and so many others. Don’t forget, don’t turn away from the hurt that’s in the world.

Maybe I’m doing this day all wrong. But it’s the best I can do with this broken, imperfect heart of mine.


2 responses to “Tisha B’Av: A Time of Mourning

  1. Adam says:

    Yes. I had scheduled a job interview (for a job that I really need) for today, and then realized when it was too late to change it that today was Tisha B’Av. Also, I’m a diabetic, so fasting isn’t an option for me, and I got to feel guilty about that.

    But I’ve spent at least part of the day remembering the dreadful losses that the Jewish people have experienced over the centuries. I read Ilana DeBare’s “Visiting Auschwitz” this morning (, and I will probably pick up and re-read my copy of the Diary of Anne Frank tonight.

    It has been a meditative sort of day for me. I think that that has to be enough, at least for today, at least for now.

    • Jenn says:

      Such a raw and heart-breaking account written by Ilana. Thank you for sharing her link.

      I think our meditations, along with all those of others who mourn with us, will suffice for today.

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