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Tisha B'av: A Time To Mourn

Tisha B’av: A Day to Mourn

It’s often easier to ignore sadness so that it doesn’t consume us. On Tisha B’av however, we have a mitzvah to mourn. The question many of us face as we approach Tisha B’av is; how do we feel this sadness without getting stuck in depression and despair?

A Reason to cry:

During Bein Hamitzarim (the Three Weeks including the Nine Days and Tisha B’Av) and especially on Tisha B’Av, we mourn the loss and destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) along with all the horrific atrocities and sadness that takes place in our world.

A short history of Tisha B’av:

When the meraglim (Jewish spies) returned from scouting Eretz Yisroel (Israel) and cried for no reason, Hashem declared that He would provide the Jewish nation with a reason to cry. And so, on the Ninth of Av it was decreed that our forefathers must remain in the desert and not enter Eretz Yisroel.

It was on that day, years later, that both the first and second Batei Mikdash (Temples) were destroyed. At a subsequent period in history, the city of Beitar was captured and tens of thousands of Jews were killed on that date. On that very same day in a different decade, Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Beis Hamikdash and its surroundings, which signified the finality of its destruction. Since then, we have experienced The Crusades, Pogroms, The Inquisition, The Holocaust, and countless other attacks on Jewish lives.

Every single bit of suffering we’ve experienced up until present times is an outgrowth of the Churban (destruction of the Temple). In other words, we are still feeling the effects of the destruction today.

Tisha B’av today:

On Tisha B’Av we grieve for all this suffering. Today, not a day goes by that we don’t hear about tragedy. The universe is replete with calamities of all varieties. The world is crumbling around us, and we live in a time where the slaying of human life has become commonplace — stabbings, beheadings, shootings, fighting, missiles, rockets, grenades, bombings, abductions, drownings, natural disasters, freak accidents, etc. After we hear of each one, we sigh, and then more or less mindlessly continue on with our lives, trying not to think too much about it.

Let’s not forget about the myriads of tragedy and pain in our community that doesn’t make the front page news. We’re faced with parnossa issues, divorce, antisemitism, sickness, shidduchim difficulties, injuries, addiction, abuse, intermarriage, immorality, deaths of people in the prime of their lives, infertility, baseless hate, suicides, brethren having lost their connection, poverty, haphazard sinning, mental illness, scandals, among many other major mishaps and misfortunes.

Aren’t we supposed to be happy?

We’ve gotten so used to the horror in the world that it has ceased to affect us as much.

Being resilient is no longer just a sought after quality. It has become a necessity.

We’ve built a resilience, which allows us to function on a daily basis as healthy individuals. If we were to reflect on our distress every single day, we would be paralyzed by feelings of despair and depression. It’s for this reason that it is a mitzvah to be happy! We try to stay away from dwelling on negative thoughts and ruminating about our challenges and widespread calamities.

On Tisha B’Av, however, it’s actually a mitzvah to be sad. This is the time to brood over the atrocities of galus (exile), to really feel the hurt and to connect to it on a personal level. Our suffering, even pain from something as simple as losing a deal that meant a lot to us, is connected to the Churban. It may be difficult for us to cry over the destruction that took place 2,000 years ago, but it’s not that hard to mourn the loss and hurt that we experience all too routinely.

It’s not easy to cry on demand, or to be sad just because we’re supposed to. People have a hard time focusing on the Churban for the duration of the Three Weeks or even just on Tisha B’Av. As a society we’re conditioned to bounce back from hardship and not to be sad for very long.

We’re uncomfortable with sadness, and many of us don’t know what to do with it or how to express it. When we do experience unhappiness and depression, it often seems like an unstoppable downward spiral. Depression can paralyze us and make it seem like we can’t do anything productive or move forward. We don’t want to get lost in it, so we try to avoid it altogether. It’s much easier to deny and/or numb sadness. It’s also socially more acceptable to be happy, and so we try not to let misery and anguish surface at all. We all have something to cry about, but because we’ve compartmentalized it all, it’s hard to access it on Tisha B’Av.

Tisha B’Av gives us a structure for mourning:

Shiva and aveilus (mourning for the death of an immediate rhalachos have many of the same halachos as the Three Weeks, Nine Days, and Tisha B’Av. Why do we need laws to tell us how to mourn? Shouldn’t our natural grief show us how to efficiently be sad? And, if we’re not sad, why force the issue?

The Sefer Hachinuchhalachos us that we have these halachos so we don’t just move on and dismiss a loss as meaniHilchos The Rambam in Hilchos Aveil writes that the Torah is aware that people view the world as incidental, not lending meaning to events, good or bad. He writes that this is erroneous because it deprives the mourner the comfort of knowing that there is an All-Powerful, benevolent G-d running the world, and that the hardshalachosrred for a reason! The halachos help guide mourners to effectively reflect on an event; it focuses the mourners and gives structure to an otherwise overwhelming situation.

Mourning as a way to connect to G-d:

Self-righteous sadness is perhaps the easiest. It’s when we’re trapped in a vortex of feeling sorry for ourselves and pushing G-d away. Using sadness to connect to Hashem is that much more difficult. We can connect to Hashem when we recognize that for all the pain we have, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) feels so much greater, and every tear we shed is infinitely precious to HK”BH (G-d). This pain connects us with Him, and these tears directly build the Beis Hamikdash.

On Tisha B’Av we are all mourners, and we must all contemplate the sadness and pain in the world. It is the one day a year for us to really lend meaning to our suffering and mourn for all that we have lost, perhalachos and as a nation. The halachos of Tisha B’Av provide us the structure to do so.

As Jews, we don’t believe in getting stuck in sadness, hopelessness. There is “direction” to the grieving that we do on Tisha B’av. It is anguish with a purpose. After chatzos (midday) on Tisha B’Av we get up from our mourning and we look towards the future. We felt the pain, and now what are we going to do about it? Will we let it propel us forward?

Three weeks, nine days, one day, out of the year we have laws how to observe this sadness. This sadness is a mitzvah, and it has a purpose: it is a mechanism for connection to Hashem and ultimate joy.

If we numb pain, we numb happiness. Only when we truly feel pain, can we experience true happiness.

All those who mourn Jerusalem will be worthy to see it in its true glory [מ״ב ס׳ תקנד סע׳ כה]

For more on this topic:

Child Loss tried to Destroy me but Failed

Yom Hashoah: Why I won’t observe it this year

Delayed Grieving and Sadness

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ty for getting us with the right mindframe and awakened soul to be ready for this Tishbav! It was just what I needed to read !

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