Sunday, July 15, 2007

Feeling Jewish

My problem with Jewish holidays is that they try to force you into certain moods or emotional states at specific times, and that simply doesn’t resonate with me.

Sukkot irritates me when I have to spend up to $25 on a lemon. I never feel repentant on the days leading up to Yom Kippur, and when Yom Kippur comes around, I tend to feel I missed the opportunity yet again. Purim simply makes me angry with all the drunks running amok, smashing on your car, and so on. You get the idea.

But the Three Weeks, the Nine Days, and especially Tisha B’Av have always been especially problematic. Here we are, right smack in the middle of summer break and suddenly we have to be downcast and depressed. No swimming. No music. No fun.

And three weeks of this artificially enforced emotion and behavior – can be way too much. (Yes, I know some people will strongly disagree with me at this point, and good for you that you are able to keep up being down and depressed for 3 weeks on end. Can I recommend Prozac?).

Occasionally sitting by the steps leading up to Har HaBayit I might feel a twinge, but again I know it was in part compulsory and driven by outside forces and demands. Intellectually I understood it, but the feelings were mostly not from inside. After all, for me, the Temple Mount looks like it always does, I didn’t experience the destruction, or see what it was like before, or visit it and walk in its courtyard. It was an intellectual understanding.

That all changed on 9/11.

Suddenly the bedrock and foundation stone of the world I live in was rocked, shaken, and fractured. It wasn’t the building itself, but the steadfastness, and constancy that it represented and previously existed, that was destroyed.

I wasn’t necessarily feeling grief for the thousands of victims or a few buildings, but rather for what was destroyed for me as a result. The veneer of a continuity, steadfastness, and civilization that I was a part of. The reality of my environment. The idea that something so huge and permanent could be gone so instantly and everything around it can suddenly change and disappear and perhaps no longer be safe.

It was literally at that point that I first felt what the destruction of the Temples must have been like to the Jewish people then and how it should feel to us today.

And while the strong shock is gone when I visit the site of the Twin Towers, the impalpable feeling of loss and destruction still remains.

It is that shock and loss that the Rabbis of the Churban try to have us remember and feel every year. And that is why they instituted such a long period of annual mourning because they (and as a result, we) were so devastated by this loss and this was their natural reaction, and they wanted it to be ours too.

It is only now that I have what to draw from, that I understand emotionally what this loss means to the Jewish people. I can now begin to grasp the enormity of something that I before took for granted because I knew of nothing else.

I have internalized, at least in part, the emotional impact and meaning of Tisha B’Av.

I can think of no other way to finish this post than with "L’shana haba b’Yerushalyim habnuya".


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Miriam said...

wow. great post. Somehow I never related the destruction of the beit haMikdash w/ twin towers, but emotionally, it certainly brings to a more personal level.

the only way i know said...

EXACTLY the way I felt when 9/11 happened!!!!!

by the way - there are those of us who feel similarly to the 'enforced sentiments' - yet it is good to keep trying.

good post

Lurker said...

Brilliant, insightful post.

You put your finger on many of the feelings that I have had myself, both regarding the Three Weeks/Tisha B'Av, and the world since 9/11. The analogy you draw between the two is right on the mark.

Lexa said...

It seems to me that Judaism is like "think, think, think, now feel, feel, feel". Maybe it's the same wisdon as smiling when you're sad so you're turn yourself around. If you go through the motions of sadness and loss then you will truly feel it at some point.

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