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The 10th of Av

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Today is the 10th of Av which means that yesterday was the 9th of Av. This is signficant if you are one of the millions of Jews who observes Tisha b’Av. As a staunch Reform Jew, I follow the practice of our Movement not to mark this day in any official capacity. Our Movement certainly does not deny the existence or significance of the Temple. However, we do not actively seek its restoration. Nor do we view ourselves as living in Exile, praying fervently for the return to the land. There was a time that the Reform movement so completely rejected any theology connected with the Temple that that some Reform Jews, as did 19th century Rabbi David Einhorn, actually observed Tisha b’ Av as a celebratory festival, crediting the destruction of the Temple and the subsequent exile of the Jews with enabling the Jewish people to survive and become “a light unto the nations,” as prophesied in the Book of Isaiah (42:6 and 49:6). The Movement clearly does not take this approach in current times.

I remain conflicted. For one thing, our rejection of this somber day is just one more element that separates us from the rest of the community. Furthermore, I increasingly struggle with my own sense of exile and wonder if rearing my children in a completely Jewish society would prevent them from feeling this sense of separateness that I so often feel. And so there are times that I believe that we ought to be praying for a return to our homeland.

I was not brought up marking the 9th of Av in any fashion. In fact, the only time I have observed this communal day of mourning is the year that I lived in Jerusalem. Although I was attending “Reform school” and our movement does not officially recognize this day, there is something about living in Jerusalem that makes this day seem so much more meaningful. It somehow made a great deal of sense as we sat in the courtyard of our school, reciting Eicha with the warm breeze carrying the Muslim call to prayer through the stone corridors.

I guess it isn’t so much that I believe that everyone should observe this day. At the very least, however, I think that all Jews should know its history and be aware of its significance to others. One of my friends reminded me of an incident that occurred three summers ago at our local JCC on the 17th of Tammuz — another fast day that Reform Jews do not observe. . Unable to convince the JCC to close the Cafe, the mashgiach made us put a sign up on Tammuz 17 saying “Beware – this is a FAST DAY ” as if that would have stopped anyone from eating!! My friend (Hi C!!) suggested that I make this a teachable moment and I placed table tents on all the tables with an explanation of the day. In no way implying that anyone should change their behaviour. Just as a way of teaching more about Jewish life.

So it is the 10th of Av. Tisha b’Av 5767 has come and gone. But perhaps you might consider how it can impact your religious life when it rolls around next year — starting at sundown, August 9, 2008.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, 25 July 2007 2:44 pm

    We do not fast for a variety of reasons, and we are similar to you in that we do not pray for the rebuilding of the temple or the “in-gathering of the exiles” – we don’t feel exiled! But our take on this is that we use it as a day to remember all the tragedies that have befallen our people, from the destructions of Jerusalem (both times) to the inquisition, etc. That is what we talk about with our kids. And again, while we don’t fast, we do light a memorial candle and we have very low-key food to put an emphasis on the struggles of our people. Sort of a ‘day of remembrance’ rather than ‘let’s rebuild the temple’ type of day. very reform of us 🙂

  2. Frume Sarah permalink
    Wednesday, 25 July 2007 2:46 pm

    And this is exactly where I think I might be heading in the future. I like what you do — thanks!!

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