Sunday, July 31, 2011

How Do I Mourn on Tisha B’Av?

Although there were many advantages to making Aliyah there was one big disadvantage for me. That was leaving my children’s grandparents behind. Aliyah meant that our children had no extended family to attend the many nursery school and school parties, graduations, and other festivities. So when my children invite me to attend any of their children’s celebrations I make every effort to attend.
For example, this past winter my husband drove me to my grandson’s Chanukah party a few days before the holiday. The nursery school was decorated with dredyls and menorahs, the girls and boys were dressed in their Shabbat best with crowns upon their heads, and the mothers were beaming with smiles. One woman, Elad’s mother, caught my attention. She held a new-born baby in her arms and her friends ooh-ed and aah-ed over the infant. Not only was she just home from the hospital a few days but the baby was a girl. Everyone was delighted for Elad’s oldest sister, a mature twelve-year-old, who had four younger brothers and had wanted a sister.

I could relate. When my second daughter was born, after a boy, girl, and two more boys, my first words were, “Shoshana will be so happy!” She was. Even though there are seven years between the two of them, the sisters have a close relationship.
When the second daughter was three-years-old I gave birth to her little brother a few days before Chanukah. I came home from the hospital on the same day as her Chanukah party. No one had told me about the party, though, and unlike Elad, her mother was not at the party. While the other children danced with their mothers, she danced with the teacher’s aide. Over twenty years have passed since that party but I still feel sorry I wasn’t there. I was glad that Elad’s mother had made the effort to come.
Three months after the party Elad, his mother, baby sister, another brother, and father were dead. Two Arab terrorists had broken into their home in the middle of the night on Shabbat and murdered them. Like a canker sore that one cannot help irritating I cannot stop thinking about the Fogel murders. From experience I know that with time the horror will recede and I will be able to look at pictures of my grandson’s Chanukah party without a lump in my throat. That time has not come yet, though.

Today, on the first of Av, we intensify the mourning that we began thirteen days earlier. It is mourning for the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples and numerous other tragedies that befell the Jewish people throughout our history. On the ninth of Av, Tisha B’Av, we will remove our shoes, sit on the floor, read Eicha, the book of mourning written by Jeremiah, fast, and observe intense mourning. The question has been asked how one can really mourn the destruction that took place more than nineteen centuries earlier. How can we grieve for the loss of something we never experienced?
It is a challenge and it is often suggested that we concentrate on more recent tragedies. For years I read Holocaust literature on Tisha B’Av. More recently I focused on the many brutal terror attacks and their innocent victims. Other years I was obsessed with the senseless eviction of the thousands of Gush Katif and northern Shomron Jews from their homes. This year I will undoubtedly think about Rut, Udi, Yoav, Elad, and baby Hadas Fogel, murdered in cold blood because they were Jews. May HaShem avenge their blood.

Looking at Eicha we read of youngsters taken into captivity, children starving and begging for bread, mothers eating their own offspring, and more horrors. These were not isolated incidents but, in the time of the Destruction, daily occurrences. So I can take the pain, anger, terror, and grief I feel about the Fogel murders and multiply that by thousands and perhaps I can then understand the level of mourning that we need to have on Tisha B’Av.

Mourning is important but I must not become so caught up with my grieving that I forget tradition teaches us that the Moshiach will be born on Tisha B’Av. Rabbi Leff, shlita, taught me that Tisha B’Av is the time to recognize what is missing. I need to look at myself to see how I can change. This is the time to examine my deeds and work on my observances both in relationship to HaShem and my fellow man. Tisha B’Av is very long day. There is plenty of time to try to improve myself and, with HaShem’s help, contribute to bringing the final redemption. And then maybe, we will never know any more of the horror we experienced with the Destruction of the first and second Holy Temples, the Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms, the Cossacks, the Holocaust, and the Arab terror.  


Batya said...

I'm glad you've blogged about it, giving a human face to what people read in the papers.

Ester said...

Thank you, Batya

Cindy said...

You write incredibly well while providing a teaching moment for many. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts!

Ester said...

Cindy,Thank you for taking the time to write that.