Monday, August 11, 2008

Tisha B'av: What happened?

I've spent my afternoon catching up on blogs, Facebook messages, forum postings and the like. My intention for today was to catch completely up after having been computer-free the entire weekend, save for what little connection I could manage through my BlackBerry at home. I want to post about teh entire weekend -- Shabbos to Tisha B'av -- but first I wanted to catch up and see what the rest of the world has been up to. Thus, I wasn't surprised to find so many posts about J-Bloggers about Tisha B'av, spanning the struggle to connect or get through or relate with the day of mourning, or simply just about observing the day. Among them were Frum Satire, Aliza H., the On Chanting blog, Jack, and Ilana-Davita provides some food for thought and links to other interesting posts about Tisha B'av. Then, of course, we have the Haveil Havalim Tisha B'av edition, in case you're looking for some new blogs to check out.

But really, let's talk about my take on the weekend. I hadn't necessarily anticipated an e-free Shomer Shabbos style Shabbat, but it turned out that way. I headed to the Orthodox shul Friday night, not necessarily intending to go for a Shabbos dinner either, but I ran into a girl who I'd met months ago in Skokie and we were catching up after services and she asked me along to the dinner she was heading to. Luckily, they had room and were more than happy to have me. The dinner lasted well into the night, and I didn't make it home until nearly 2 in the morning. There was lots of singing and talking and the host, a rabbi, and I discussed my impending move to Connecticut -- it turns out he spent a year in West Hartford and knows just about everyone there is to know, so he's going to connect me. We talked about academics and grammar, since another fellow at our end of the table was a grammar nut like me. I realized that I would love to emulate this rabbi and his wife -- they are, in my mind, what Orthodoxy is meant to be. After dinner and conversation, I finally headed out with the friend and after leaving her to go her way around Addison/Broadway, I decided to hop on the bus because it was late and I was tired. The interesting thing? I got on the bus and the bus-pass reading machine was BROKEN. Because of this little spark of luck, I went home and left the lights out, didn't turn anything on, and went to bed. I woke up the next day with a migraine and didn't make it to morning services. I spent the day at home, reading and mulling about, and somehow the day managed to flitter away.

I took a nap and woke up for ma'ariv and eicha. I'll admit, I've never been around for a Tisha B'av service before, and I wasn't sure what to expect, especially since the Tisha B'av prayer book wasn't, well, transliterated. I was amazed at how many people were there -- especially on the women's side. You see, I'm guessing that during Shabbos most of the women are at home preparing for the after-shul visitors, so they don't make it in for services. But there were so many women, so many hats, so many hat-toting women! After ma'ariv we all found our places on the floor and listened as each chapter was chanted by a different male -- their voices varied in tone and volume, and it was a very interesting experience that I really actually enjoyed. I would read the English fairly quickly and then follow along in the Hebrew, and it worked out quite well. After services, I walked the whole way home becuase the weather was beautiful, on the way calling my mom to explain the holiday to her. I don't know that she was interested, but I feel like informing them might someday come in handy.

I didn't make it to morning services at shul because I was up so late the night before (my sleep schedule is off), so I slept in till about 11:30, got up, and went to shul for the movie marathon. I came in about half-way through the first film, and, well, the nudity made me a bit shifty in my chair. The second movie "Go for Zucker," was a really good movie, but definitely not appropriate for a holiday of mourning since, well, it was sort of a happy, mend-your-ties kind of film. The only relateable element was perhaps the sitting shiva, but that was a minor part of the film. I left after that movie and walked to the bookshop, but found myself unable to focus on anything, so I went home where I wasted the day away until the fast ended, at which time I ate something, took some tylenol, and then tried to sleep.

So, nu? What did I get out of the fast day? I'll be completely honest with everyone here: I felt completel distant from Tisha B'av. I went through the motions, but for some reason, my mind was fully occupied with moving, school, and changes. I'm usually good with the mourning thing. The Holocaust is still fresh in my mind, despite being utterly removed from it by both familial ties and the fact that it occured dozens of years before I was born. The destruction of the temples and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and all of those events, perhaps because I'm so attached to academia and history, are very fresh in my mind, too. But yesterday, for some reason, I felt like I was in a daze the entire time. Like, I couldn't even think about the purpose of Tisha B'av. Like it was a mist passing over me. I'm not sure what happened. Maybe I just didn't prepare myself, maybe I didn't really take the nine days to get in the place necessary to really grieve. At any rate, Tisha B'av has passed and now we are preparing for the High Holidays. It's strange how quickly this year has gone by, and it seems that I'm less and less prepared for major Jewish milestones.

What gives? And why did it suddenly get harder? I guess I have a whole year to really figure it out. Let's hope it doesn't creep up on me next year.

Anyhow, for those wondering, that little image there has the translated text of Lamentations in a mosaic of sorts.