Tuesday, July 31, 2012

National and personal mourning

Tisha B'av is the Jewish day of collective national mourning. Marked by fasting and other prohibitions on physical pleasures, it commemorates the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians, the rebuilt temple in 70 C.E. by the Romans as well as other calamities. In a sense it is a national Yahrtzeit.

Some of the rites of the holiday are the same as those observed during Shiva, sitting on a low stool or the floor, not greeting your fellow, not shaving. As the first words of Eicha (the book of Lamentations) were recited with its mournful melody, I couldn't help feeling myself transported back to the Shiva period for my mother. For the first time in over a month, I felt tears well up.

It is not easy to feel the pain of the more abstract idea of national mourning. It's a lot easier to feel the pain of personal loss. This Tisha B'av the two pains for me were essentially fused and indistinguishable.

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