Tisha B’Av

Once again the day is upon us: a day dedicated to remembering the destruction we ourselves caused, and only we ourselves can prevent. Tisha B’Av, as I wrote last year, is a day with secular–and not religious–significance, a day for each and every one of us to rethink the way we treat our fellow man or woman, and take responsibility for the results of our actions.
In that sense, Tisha B’av is a day of universal significance. Looking at it through a humanist lens, one sees that the day speaks to all peoples. The Jews are not the only people who fought a civil war, are not the only people who, through interpersonal cruelty and absolutist ideology, brought to the destruction of one national project or another. On the other hand, Tisha B’Av is especially significant for the Jews in this space and time because of the strife currently threatening to once again tear the Jewish national home apart.
The destruction of the Temple, then, is not the key. If the Temple was God’s home on earth, then its destruction is up to Him, and we need not mourn it. According to one of the wisest of Jewish thinkers–the Rambam–the Temple itself was a form of idolotry, the worship of the physical in place of the eternal.
The people, the Nation, is eternal–and we nearly destroyed it numerous times through infighting. Most other peoples have had the same experience. So, on this day, I urge you, no matter your allegience, to take a minute and think about those actions you may take to heal the wounds in the society in which you live, and work towards the strengthening of the soul of your people, who ever they may be.
For more reading, check out the Orthodox Union’s pages on Tisha B’Av. Yes, you might need to translate the concepts a bit into more secular forms, but there are key texts which stress personal responsibility and flexibility over all, such as the story of Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza and the Tiger at the Gates.

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