Reimagining Tisha B’av
I am so excited to be back on the bima! After a meaningful and study filled Sabbatical in Israel I am looking forward to celebrating Shabbat with my Kol Ami community! This Shabbat is Shabbat Chazon, the Sabbath prior to Tisha B’Av (This coming Monday eve and Tuesday). Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) commemorates the destruction of the first and second temples. Traditionally a fast day, Tisha B’av always brings about conflicting feelings in me. While I read from the book of Lamentations of the horror of the destruction of the first Temple and imagine the cruelty of the Roman seige of Jerusalem that resulted in the destruction of the second Temple in the year70 my heart breaks at the pain and suffering caused during those times.
But having just returned from a month living in contemporary Jerusalem the juxtaposition of those terrible moments and the vibrant, thriving city that is Jerusalem today leads me to wonder how we should observe Tisha B’Av. Should we really mourn the destruction of the Temple any more? The destruction of the Temple by the Romans in the year 70 changed Judaism forever and ushered in the era of Rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism replaced the ancient sacrificial system. I don’t think this is a bad thing but frankly something to celebrate.
Judaism was recreated. Prayer replaced sacrifice. Jewish study and Jewish law became more central ideas and shapers of our Jewish life. Judaism became more accessible to the average person as the priesthood no longer had a central role with more access.
And when you visit Jerusalem today and you see the throngs of people living day to day you realize that we are a people who have endured despite these tragedies. So perhaps we ought not to fast. Perhaps it should be a day of rejoicing that we survived, adapted and renewed our people’s religious expression. Perhaps Tisha B’av ought to be a day to celebrate creativity, endurance and fortitude. Yes say Kaddish for life lost. But we did more than survive-we beat the odds. Creativity and Imagination of our Sages like Yochanan Ben Zakkai who took his students out of Jerusalem and re-established a center of learning in Yavne is what we ought to celebrate on this day. And that is a blessing. And that is a model for what we have to do today. Use our creativity and imagination to adapt Jewish life for this time and this place. So this coming week on Tisha B’av I am going to look at the stories of heroism and creativity of our people who adapted and changed were willing to go out on a limb to imagine a new kind of Jewish life without the Temple. !