Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Light: My Tisha B'av Timeline

Photo taken and graphic made July 26, 2004.
Once upon a time, in 2004, I properly observed the no-food, no-drink fast of Tisha B'av that starts Monday night for the first time. The fast, in a nutshell, commemorates a variety of tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, most notably the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

So what did I have to say on July 26, 2004?
Tonight begins Tisha B'av. If you don't know what that is, feel free to click here: Learn about Tisha B'av! It's a day of fasting, low-key activities, and reflecting on the destruction of the Second Temple. It's the first holy day of the yearlong cycle for me. I'm kind of excited to participate in my first fast of my path to Judaism. It sounds ridiculous, but I feel a part of something.
I'll admit that I did edit that a bit -- but only for the sake of capitalization and compound modifiers. Later, on July 27, 2004, around 6:30 p.m. I wrote this:
Ok, so fasting is hard. Especially when you promise to meet someone at THE COFFEE HOUSE and then remember you can't drink/eat in respect of the day. So I slept in as late as possible in order to not have to be awake and then went to the coffee house around 3 p.m. and there was Gregory. We sat for about 2-1/2 hours doing our respective tasks and talking in between about the holy grail, Christianity, Atlantis, people, Oasis, music, and everything else you can imagine. I absolutely love my time with Greg because he makes me laugh, a lot. Which I shouldn't have been doing on a day such as today, but I couldn't help but laugh. And now, now I'm here at the DN doing my normal thing. I'm starving though. For pancakes. Chicken tacos. Anything. Everything. Aghhh! Especially coffee. 
I found this quote from MARK TWAIN, which appeared in HARPER'S in SEPTEMBER 1899: "All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains." 
It made me brilliantly happy, it did. It makes sense, as well. It seems that although numbers of Jews have decreased, the continuity of the people is what stands and stands tall, might I add.

Ahh. I need to occupy myself for the next several hours. Agh. The sunset is scheduled for 8:47 p.m. folks. It will be a long two hours. Help? Maybe I'll go use my free ticket to see Cat Woman?
Did I go see Cat Woman? No way to tell. But I clearly wasn't doing anything remotely related to Tisha B'av other than fast. (Later that night, while watching the Democratic National Convention, I predicted that Barack Obama would someday be president -- albeit the prediction was for 2016.)

Tisha B'av in 2005 is a void -- I have no record, and I can't recall what I did or didn't do. Did I fast? Did I even get what fasting involved? I was in Denver, CO, interning at The Denver Post, so chances are I was busy sleeping and then working, and chances are I broke my fast by going to Subway for the Teriyaki Chicken sandwich. But that's just a prediction. Who knows what really happened. 

Then, in 2006, I wrote about my experience fasting on Tisha B'av and my frustration with one Jews approach to Tisha B'av for Secular Jews. I think I was the most reflective then. I was frustrated with the idea that Secular Jews don't need Tisha B'av because there's no need for a Temple, so why mourn something that was destroyed when it doesn't impact us today? Of course, at that time, I was a Reform Jew. And it still bothered me. Now, as an Orthodox Jew, it still bothers me. Back then, I wrote the following about the fast and day of observance:
It isn't just about religion, it's about the people and the history and the furthering of the existence of Jewishness.
I suggested that if everyone in the world spent a single day fasting and reflecting on destruction, drought, disease, war, famine, oppression, abuse, and inequality, perhaps we'd all be startled into action. But maybe it's a naive hope. After all, as I said then and I say now, What do I know? I'm just a Jew from Nebraska who grew up in the Ozarks.

In 2007 I wrote about my frustration with the sentiment that on this day we "mourn for a life we no longer want." I was wondering -- and still am -- whether if/when the Temple is rebuilt (G-d willing), will we still observe sacrifices in the same way? Or will the messiah come with some ethically evolved plan for sacrifice that is inline with how we observe things today. Finally, in 2008 (and last year) I wrote about how I felt distant from Tisha B'av, as if I were just going through the motions.

Will I sleep all day and wake up to check blog posts and see everyone else's meaningful and positive declarations of Tisha B'av observance on Tuesday? I don't know. What I do know is that I plan to read -- and read a lot -- on Sunday night and Monday in hopes of properly preparing myself for Tisha B'av

And, as the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, I think it's only proper to consider what it means to bring light into the world. To mourn a loss of light in our time, but to imagine a restored light. I suppose by emptying ourselves, literally, of food and drink, we have a chance to fill that place inside with light -- a light that can move outward through a fight for justice and peace. 

I hope that everyone who observes the fast to finds a unique meaning in it, and for those who don't observe the fast to still consider what it means to fill the darkness of the world with light.