The Jewish festival of Tisha B’Av starts this evening. Some thoughts:
– According to Jewish tradition the Second Temple was destroyed because of the Jewish people’s sinat chinam – baseless hatred. In other words, it isn’t enough to simply mark our collective tragedies and mourn our collective losses. We must honestly own the ways our own prejudices and intolerance have contributed to these losses.
What does this mean for us today? Tisha B’Av is not only a day to mourn the past – it is a day in which we face the ways in which our sinat chinam gives rise to tragedy in our own day and age.
– While the destruction of the Second Temple represents a profound mythic loss for the Jewish people, we cannot deny that it also gave birth to Jewish tradition as we know it. Because of the churban (“destruction”), Judaism ceased to be a Jerusalem-based sacrificial cult and became a diaspora-based world religion predicated upon study, prayer and acts of compassion.
In other words, the tragedy of the churban contained the seeds of a Jewish rebirth. What does this teach us? If we only regard Tisha B’Av as an occasion of unmitigated collective grief, then our observance of this day is incomplete. At its essence, the ninth of Av is a day for identifying the ways that our losses invariably point the way to life renewed.