What are you waiting for?
“What are you waiting for, Tisha B’Ab?”
My dad loves that expression. As I think about it, I’ve never heard anyone else say it. Maybe he got it from my grandfather. I don’t know. I’m not entirely sure he’s ever really considered the deep meaning of Tisha B’Av. That’s fine—it’s not his thing.
For better or for worse, it’s my thing. I suppose that’s why I’m writing this less than three hours before I have to be at the synagogue to listen to the book of Eicha being read and to begin my long fast. What I really should be doing is eating a light meal and drinking a lot of water. This is going to be a quick one—there will be typos.
I talked about Tisha B’Av last year, so I’m only going to recap:
Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the month of Av) is a day of mourning and a fast day commemorating a series of tragedies that have struck the Jewish people throughout our history.
I don’t want to minimize tragedy. I am not going to minimize tragedy. I would never say this to someone who is in the midst of experiencing something tragic.
I’ve been thinking about tragedy and I’ve come to the conclusion that what tragedy is (not what it means—it doesn’t help to search for the meaning in tragedy): A radical shift in the nature of the moment.
A loved one is here and then they are gone. Buildings stood, now they are rubble. There was hope and belief and a sense of order, now there is despair, doubt, and chaos.
It appears that way from the middle.
But from further down the road it’s different.
Babylon gave us Jeremiah, and one of the most beautiful phrases in the Tanakh: Kol sasson, v’kol simhah, kol, hatan, v’kol kalah. (The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.) We sing it at weddings, filled with hope and love. And it goes on. From the ruins of Jerusalem we went to Yavne and created the Mishnah and began to focus on prayer. In our expulsion from Spain, we traveled to Turkey and Morocco and composed unimaginably beautiful music.
Things don’t go according to plan. Life is not what we imagined it would be and it feels like everything’s flying off the rails. At least from the middle. We feel no control because the reality of the moment has radically changed. This is where we are.
And, frankly, it sucks.
Tisha B’Av is important. We should weep and mourn. We should look at ourselves and the hatred we nourish despite the fact that this hatred kills us. We should remember what it feels like to be in that place where everything has changed in an instant and we are lost.
We should recognize that we can’t always control what happens. And this is where we live. If we accept this, we will see God in that moment. And hear the Voice of Joy, unlikely as it seems.
“What are you waiting for, Tisha B’Ab?” my dad asks.
What are you waiting for? A radical change?
“It may not happen, or it may happen in a way you never imagined,” he seems to be saying.
“There is nothing to wait for; this is where we live,” I reply.