I wrote three weeks ago about my sadness on the 17th of Tamuz. It was about missed opportunities to improve. But the ninth of Av is a little tougher. I apologize in advance because what I am going to say will undoubtedly bother some people. I say it because I am really digging deep inside to come to terms with my religious pratice and how it touches me. If it does not come from the same place in your soul then move on. I came to understand certain things about myself and I wanted to put them down for posterity.
Tisha B'av is a day on which we remember the pain and suffering of the Jews over the generations. We center on the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem but there were other historical events which shook us as a people. For these I should be sad. For the destruction of the tempole, my eyes should well up with tears. I should be sitting on the floor feeling a sense of personal loss -- a loss I can easily explain and understand, a loss which I know is profound and important in terms of me and my family. And though I observe the restrictions fo the day, and suffer in the limited way which is imposed on me, and though I do, truly yearn for a messianic age I feel the deepest sadness for a different reason.
I am sad because I am not sad.
I am sad because, though I am in touch with the loss that my people have suffered, I can not reject the relatively comfortable position in which I find myself. I am sad because on one, very honest level, I do not want to change a thing about how and where I live. I know I should want to. I know that the dream of return to Zion is central but I am sad that I cannot remove from myself the sense of comfort and complacency which comes from living in the USA. I am not sad that I live here but I am sad that I cannot fully want to live anywhere else. And I say this quite deliberately. I think I WANT to want to live in Israel in a messianic age, but that selfish and lazy part of me celebrates that I live somewhere where I am relatively safe and able to practice my religion and language of choice. I admire those who move to Israel and I do see the allure but I can't get myself to drop everything, express the truest form of faith and move to Israel with no plan because I know that things will work out. I know I should want that and I know that I should be bemoaning my fate that I can't. But instead I am ashamed because I don't want to.
But then I remember that Tisha B'av is destined to be a day which marks the dawn of redemption. What does that mean? Does it mean the birth of the messiah? I hope so. But I hope that the sadness I feel over not being sad gives birth in me or in others the right kind of sadness which motivates us as reunite as a people. Maybe by suffering a bit I can remind myself that my position in the USA is, while comfortable, one of being a guest. I hope that this day and the introspection and self realization which I am sharing drives one person to look at the day and say "I do feel that I should be elsewhere and I'm going to do something about it." Or at least "I do see that I should be sad about the sins which put us in this situation, and instead of saying I like my life too much and it is easier to keep doing them, I am going to stop committing these sins."
May we all suffer a little so we can refocus and feel the losses which have crafted our identity, and feel those losses in a way that teaches to feel sadness in a real, affecting way. May we all say next year in Jeruslaem and mean it. May our prayers reflect our souls not just our lips.