Faith & Trust

Getting up off the Ground: The Secret to Jewish Continuity

 
How did things change so quickly? On Sunday we were mourning the destruction of the two Temples that once stood in Jerusalem. Now suddenly the mourning recedes into the background of our national Jewish consciousness and we are once again listening to music, making barbeques, and taking trips, all the activities that we abstained from as we focused on the destruction of the Temple.

How did we go from mourners sitting on the ground to sunbathers sitting on the beach slathering on sunscreen? What a difference twenty-four hours makes. Are the Jewish People really so fickle, or is time its own entity, a force that guides and directs us, and on its own determines what behavior is appropriate?

As adults, we are not used to thinking of time in this way. As adults in the modern world, we believe that we can use time in the way we want, that if we are lucky we can set our own schedule, choosing flexi-time at work, and telling the boss when we want our vacation.

We can decide on the right time to get married and the right time to have children. We believe “there is a right time for everything” but we also believe it is a time that we can each determine for ourselves.

Yet the week after Tisha’bov challenges that conception of time. It reminds us that there is individual time, and there is national time. And right now, the Jewish clock is set on National Time.

Remember the first day of school, that feeling of new beginnings with new clothes and new books, that lingers on even after we have finished school? Somehow the first of September has lasting meaning to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. For those in the Southern Hemisphere, that day comes in January.

The same is true for the week before Tisha’bov and the week after. And right now, we are in the week after. In the week after, G-d says “Allow yourself to be comforted. Turn your thoughts away from the destruction and all the Jewish People have lost. Embrace what we have held onto for centuries.” There is even a special name for the Shabbos directly after Tisha’bov. Shabbos Nahchamu – the Shabbos of consolation. There is a mitzvah to make this Shabbos special, to make it a time of happiness. There is a mitzvah to stop being sad.

Is feeling sad and feeling happy something we can actually control? Is the right time to experience these emotions something we can allow time to determine for us rather than each of us determining it for ourselves? We can’t actually control our emotions. What we can do is control our behavior, and choose the behavior that will invoke the emotion we hope to create.

So while sitting on the floor on Tisha’bov helps us to recreate the experience of what it means to be in mourning, listening to music helps us to create a different mood. A mood that says “Life continues after loss.”

The ability to move on is the secret to Jewish continuity. As a nation, we were always forced to rebuild a new life in a new land. That’s how Jews came to live in South Africa, and Canada, and Chile. Pick a country – Ethiopia and India, Morocco and Uzbekistan. There is a Jewish presence. There is a Jew who got up from the floor and said “Enough sadness. It’s time to move on.”

That’s what the week after Tisha’bov is all about. We acknowledged our losses. We acknowledged what’s missing in our Nation – a central unifying Temple that contains enough room for the entire Jewish people to pray at one time. Now we acknowledge what’s next. The dawn after every dark night. The day that comes after the day we cried.

 

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