A Day to Forget
This morning, the 8th of Hebrew month of Av, I realized how much I have forgotten.
I was scrambling to get ready for work, and almost tripped over the massive pile of laundry occupying the edge of our room. Annoyed at the pile and annoyed at this time of year in general, I began thinking about how much I can’t wait for Tisha b’Av to be over so I can finally do laundry and wear clean clothes.
I can’t wait for Tisha b’Av to be over so I can do laundry.
The reality of my train of thought hit me like a load of bricks. This is where I was, spiritually: the day before Tisha b’Av and I’m revelling in the thought of doing laundry afterward. I couldn’t believe that this was the place I was at that moment.
Tisha b’Av; the 9th day of the month of Av. No special name. Certainly not a holiday. Just a day.
We shouldn’t be crying and fasting right now.
Yet we act as though we must.
Being a music teacher and director of an incredible music program, I have spent a lot of time this year learning the halachot of the three weeks, to figure out how continue working and not enjoy the music that I am teaching my students in a way that violates Jewish law. I have gone over scenarios with Rabbis, figuring out how to manage fasting etc. and fulfilling the requirements of the three weeks and of this day. It has been an interesting challenge, and those of you that know how much I enjoy learning halacha can imagine how much figuring out how to manage at this time has stimulated and interested me.
So much time spent on the wrong things. So much effort spent on forgetting.
Tisha b’Av as a day of mourning is not inevitable, yet we treat it as such. We see it as just another time of year that we need to get through, as just another obligation that we need to fulfill before we can get back to our usual lives and start doing laundry again.
This day of mourning is not inevitable, yet until we realize this, it will continue to be. I have wasted so much time figuring out how to cope during this time instead of doing my part to make sure that it doesn’t need to happen.
This didn’t need to happen.
It does not need to be happening.
Some say that by the time the beit hamikdash was destroyed in this world, it was merely a husk, and had already been rotted away spiritually. Today, I am remembering the damage that I have inflicted upon myself by forgetting, and realizing with all too much clarity that on this day during which I could be full, I am empty.
It is completely within our power to change and make this day a day of happiness, joy, and celebration. Yet we don’t. Yet I didn’t – I instead relearn the halachot and look forward to getting to my laundry.
This day should NOT be happening.
I am sitting on the hard floor right now, dirty and fasting. And I know how much I have failed myself.
I have forgotten so much.
What is sinat chinam? We are taught that Tisha b’Av is a day of mourning because we still are living our lives saturated in sinat chinam [baseless hatred]. It is because of this attitude that the last temple fell, but what is this, really?
Sinat chinam is forgetting.
When we look at and experience another person without love, we are forgetting. We are forgetting who they are. We are forgetting the infinite. And we are forgetting ourselves.
We have forgotten ourselves.
We listen to and chant the right words. We abstain from the right emotions and physical sustenance. We wish each other an easy and meaningful fast. We go through the motions. We can’t wait for it to be over.
So we can get back to our comfortable, normal lives.
We have forgotten so much. We have forgotten that this day does not and should not be happening like it is right now. And we have forgotten that the power to change this lies solely within ourselves.
There is something else…
Today is the Hebrew date that I came into this world. It’s my birthday.
In Judaism, those who are celebrating a special time (birthday/wedding) are said to have an extra intense connection with the creator on that day. Therefore the person celebrating gives extra love and good wishes to all those that he/she encounters during that day. It is not a day to get, but a day to give.
I would love nothing more than to give blessings and wish all of you the best that this world has to give on this day.
Yet I can’t. As long as Tisha b’Av is a day of mourning, I can’t.
There is nothing more that I would love to do right now, yet since I have forgotten myself again this year, I cannot.
And really, there is nothing more I can say. If I cannot spread love today, then at least I can share these words:
I value all of you so very much. Please, try to remember who you are so this day can be celebrated as a day of life instead of continuously mourned as a day of decay.