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Tisha B'Av in the Age of Covid

07/28/2020 11:06:36 AM


Today is the 7th day of the month of Av.  In 2 days from now, the minor Jewish holiday, Tisha b’Av (the 9th of Av) will arrive and with it, an ancient encouragement to live our life differently that day in light of historical tragedies of the Jewish people.  It is taught that the destruction of the First and Second Temples, as well as the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, took place on this date.  It is a date that lives in infamy for the Jewish people.  For some, it is a day of fasting from sun-up to sun-down.  For others, it is a day filled with the chanting of dirges, the “woes-as-us” poetry of the Jewish people.

While this is often a date in the Jewish calendar that misses the attention of most liberal Jews, I am calling on our community this week to sim lev, to give it a bit more of your heart than you may have in the past.  For mounting around us is a plague whose toll is only rising.  As of today, in Harris County alone, there have been 6,967 COVID deaths and 4,269 COVID infections reported.  While the statistics do indeed belie the real numbers, these alone are deeply tragic and deserving of our “Tisha b’Av energy.”  As we move through this week, I encourage us all to allow ourselves to be more impacted than perhaps we usually do, by this pandemic, if thank God, it hasn’t visited our families or homes.  This week is the third of the “three weeks of degradation” leading up to Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of comfort.  And soon after, we dive into the month of Elul, a journey upwards filled with 7 weeks of consolation, on our way to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  These parts of our calendar can be very helpful to us right now, as the length and weight of this journey is I know, bearing down on many of us in a multitude of ways.  Please allow me to make some suggestions for how you might consider allowing our tradition to guide you this week and even in the weeks ahead:

  1. Meditate more.  Try being still a bit more often this week, paying attention to feelings of uncertainty, fear, anxiety and concern.  Not to try to “fix” them but just to sit with them in curiosity and ask yourself, “What do they feel like?”, “Where (in my body) do I feel them?”  and “How are they serving me? (for better and for worse)”
  2. Create.  Journal, Play an Instrument, Paint, Sculpt – Do creative things with little or no goals in mind.  Remind yourself that you are a creator and thus, you can imagine new ways forward if you give yourself the freedom to do so.
  3. Join.  This week, Shma Koleinu’s “10@Noon” focus and Shabbat services will be on the above.  Find fellowship with others seeking to live this week with a bit more of a Tisha B’Av mindset – not to depress, but to im-press upon us all the gift that life and health and joy are to making each and every day of our lives count.
  4. Tune into “Turn Our Mourning into Dancing” for a Tisha B’Av commemoration, tomorrow night, July 29, 2020, 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm CST.  Sponsored by “Chai Mitzvah,” you can join poets and musicians – social activists and artists – in exploring and discussing their creations for the healing of society and the earth. This will be an interactive and moving evening.  Register Here


With love, from my house to yours,

Rabbi Scott

Wed, November 25 2020 9 Kislev 5781