Tisha b’Av: The Secular Day of Rememberance
If there was to be one day in the Jewish year the secular should remember, I think it should be Tisha b’Av.
Tisha b’Av, the Ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, is a day with almost no religious significance. It is a day removed from miracles. Tisha b’Av was the day that the world and the Universe (and if you will God) was so fed up with the hatred between the Jewish people that he gave them up to the hands of the Romans.
Tisha b’Av is a remembrance of the fall of the Jewish State almost two thousand years ago. It is actually quite a date, not only because it is the day the Romans finally penetrated the walls of the Jewish Capital and burned the symbol of Jewish sovereignty (the Temple), but also because it was on that same day, half a century beforehand, that the last Jewish State and first Temple were destroyed. Countless other acts too, such as an ‘actzion’ in the Warsaw Ghetto, the banishment of the Jews from Spain, etc.
It is quite a big one when it comes to historical catalysts too. After the fall of Jerusalem, Jewish sovereignty was officially crushed. Those who did not die from the sword or did not starve to death within the walled city were dragged off by the Romans to be sold as slaves. The surviving men, women and children were dragged by their wrists to Italy and the other parts of the Roman empire. One of these we all know by name—Sparticus—yet the others lived out their dismal existence as Jewish slaves in the Roman lands.
It is from that day forth that the Jewish people entered nearly two thousand years of exile, countless pogroms, the Spanish Inquisition, Islamic Hertic taxes and the Holocaust. It was the lack of the Jewish State that allowed Jews to be treated thusly throughout the world.
And history tells us that this calamity, this Shoa, happened not because the Jews forgot to follow the Law of the Torah. Exactly the opposite is true. The Sages say that the law was followed down to the last letter—it was the spirit that was forgotten.
Tisha b’Av places the blame of the exile, the blame for the thousands of years of pogroms and Holocaust on the hatred between the Jewish people. Funny thing is that now, at the advent of a new age of Jewish existence in a State of its own, this same hatred is on the rise. The secular hate the religious, the religious hate the secular, Ashkenazi hate the Sephardim, the Moroccans hate the Russians, the Russians hate the Ethiopians…everyone hates everyone again. And once again we are at that threshold when we can quite easily loose our State once more. The destruction in the days of yore did not come from within—the Romans were the chosen players of the Universe to bring down the Israeli kingdom of hatred. Will the Arabs play the part this time? The Americans?
My point is that it is not too late. It is said that when the Temple was destroyed the destruction began with the wise men and the elders because they did nothing to stop the wrong-doing. We must recognize the importance of Tisha b’Av in that it provides for us a living, breathing memorial of the beginning of all violence, and a point in which all that violence could have been stopped before it started.
I am going to speak for myself now: I fast on Tisha b’Av because it reminds me a fraction of the pain that my ancestors felt. I dedicate this one day a year to literally crying over our loss. Crying over my family killed in the Holocaust because there was no State. Crying over the two thousand years of persecution and hatred projected against the Jewish people. And remembering that it is all my fault.
By fasting on Tisha b’Av I am taking responsibility for the hatred once again saturating the Jewish People, and threatening to tear down our fledgling state. Not because of some religious commandment, not because it will get me a higher seat in the afterlife (whatever it might be).
Tisha b’Av is purely secular. It recognizes that the here and now is a product of the then and there. It reminds us that the here and now will bring about the to-come and to-be. Through participating in its fast, from the second one eats the final meal of a hard-boiled egg on the floor to the half a day later during which one sits on a low, hard, bench, one remembers that it is the hatred in his/her heart that can make or break his/her existence. It reminds us that it must be our life-long pursuit to eradicate hatred, and, since we have to start from somewhere we can start by remembering all the bad things that happened on one ninth day of the month of Av.
I urge you to think about taking this one day and, for a change, being a little bit sad. Dedicate this day of fast to remember the pain and suffering our own parents and grandparents went through, and their parents and grandparents, and those before them. Take this day to 100% remember that you are unbelievably lucky to be living in these times of relative peace, in these times of a Jewish State, and that it is up to you and you alone to keep us from falling back into the abyss.
And please try to stop all those thoughts of ‘the religious started it’ or ‘it’s the Moroccan’s fault.’ The cycle of inter-cultural hatred must stop someplace, and you are the best person to make the first step.
I challenge you to make that first step by fasting the next Tisha b’Av and dwelling on all the pain that hatred has already caused.
Monthly Archives: July 2002
Tisha b’Av: The Secular Day of Rememberance