What a day Tisha B'Av was. It was moving, deep… and now... its vacation?
One of the difficulties that I have faced every year was moving from the mourning of Tisha B'Av to the vacation headset of bein hazmanim. It seems so superficial to break your fast and begin going through the vacation ‘lit’ that comes in the mail. You can wait until the morning (since there is too much laundry to escape too far right after the 9 day hiatus from getting it done). But trying to develop amnesia just doesn't feel organic or right!
This year, I finally got it.
The progression of mourning begins on the 17th of Tammuz. The wall around Yerushalaim was breached, and the siege began in earnest. As things became more ominous the mourning increases until we face the day of Tisha B'Av itself. The moment that the Bais HaMikdash was torched, leading to the death of 22,000 young kohaim who died and n others who were killed was at midday. That was the end. The end of hope that somehow there would be a last minute rescue. You would expect the mourning to reach its peak at that time of day. Instead, the laws of mourning begin to slowly recede. You can get up from the low stools that kept you on the floor all morning. You can begin moving back into ordinary life. The Talmud tells you why. "This is when Mashiach is born". Maharal explains that the profound recognition of who we became and what we lost is the key to moving forward. Now you can begin to say, "Okay. Now we are going to implement the changes that we have to face".
Quoting the Book of Daniel, Maharal also points out that the final phase of our exile will involve our facing two cultures. To understand why two (and who they are, and what we can do to deal with the conflicts that they generate) we have to talk a little bit about exile.
Exile, he tells us, isn't geographical. It has to do with losing track of who you are, and becoming something alien to your genuine self. He gives you a visualization to use as a way of getting in touch with what you are, and what exile from yourself really means.
Envision a black dot, with four arrows leading away from its core going in every one of the four directions. There are four types of "other". They can grab your essential sense of identity and lead you further and further away from your genuine sense of self.
Historically, one major detour we took as a people was falling under the spell of the Babylonians, who in their time were the most forceful "winners" in the world. Everyone likes a winner. Instinctively losing is associated with being dumb, weak and vulnerable, and winning with being strong, bright, and invincible. It was only when your ancestors came face to face with how brutal and inhuman this kind of ideology can be, that it was unveiled. A very similar sort of love/hate relationship with everything German in pre-war Europe was part of the social scene. They were "winners" and that was part of their evil magic. The other direction that takes you away from yourself, the intellectual parallel of physical force, was Greece. The Greeks created the human centered world. If an idea fit into this paradigm, it’s a "good" idea. If it doesn't, it's "bad". You are a "winner" just be virtue of excluding everything that doesn't ring true to (you guessed it) YOU! The only problem is that his is just one aspect of you. The spiritual aspect is kept under wraps. You wonder where the deeper and more genuinely moral You disappeared to.
These two forms of exile will not be the ones we face at the end. There are two other kinds of Other. The two major forces we face externally will be the combined forces of Persia/Arabic cultures against Western cultures. Go back to the dot on the white page. Look at the two arrows that go to the right and the left. Babylon was the arrow that pointed up (Babylon uber alles?), while Greece was the arrow that pointed downward (towards the moral abyss). Rome is the voice, the right, the stronger of your two hands. This is the voice that says, "I can do it. Build it. Market it. Invent it." It is the voice that says "yes". The left is the axis of Persia and the Arabs, who take pride in what they can conquer and destroy. It is the voice that says "no" to everything that isn't them. I am amazed how Maharal drew this from the verses in Daniel that once they are "opened up" are suddenly so clear. Hundreds of years before anyone could have envisioned today's international reality it was all there. What does that tell you? It says one thing.
Don't fall into the illusion that you are what you can produce. Don't fall into the trap of careerism as a self-definition, or any other form of Yes that excludes real connection to Hashem, other people and your inner self. Don't fall into the trap of destruction; meaningless "politics" and divisiveness; inter familial nonsense, communal nonsense, anything in which you feel empowered by destroying your "enemies'.
Recognizing that you can stay in the center after you, experience the destruction of losing your inner sanctuary is what Tisha B'Av is about. Now you have to rebirth yourself! Be instructive, creative, and most of all honest about Who you are serving and what you are here for. Enjoy being you! Have a great bein hazmanim if this is when your vacation is going to be.
I will be BEH doing my usual trips to Tzfat, Yitzchar where my relatives have a house high enough to see the entire county! If that does not do it, what will?