Winds of Change reminds me that is a good day to feel a little sad and contemplative. And I am particularly grateful for the link to this post on a Jewish response to "senseless hatred."
Tisha B'Av is a holy day on the Jewish calendar that the vast majority of non-Jews have never and will never hear of. Frankly, I would imagine that the vast majority of reform, loosely affiliated, or culturally identified Jews haven't heard of it. It's a day of mourning -- for the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE and for the many many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people since then. It is a fast day. I spent one summer as a camper and nearly 5 summers as a staffer at the Jewish camp for teens, Tel Yehudah. The camp is not affiliated with any particular denomination of Judaism; but rather was committed to pluralism. The intention was that whether one was an Orthodox Jew or an unaffiliated one, you should be able to fairly comfortably attend. Accordingly the camp was Kosher and Shomer Shabbat and had a short prayer service every morning. And of course, observed the holidays that fell in the months of July and August -- including Tisha B'Av. [Literally the "ninth" day of the month "Av"]. No one was required to fast; small, cold, dairy meals were available buffet-style all day long at camp. [Egg salad, tuna fish, and peanut butter sandwiches, veggie sticks, apples, and bananas.] But there were no regular activities offered -- no swimming, or sports. There was free time to spend quietly, and small discussion groups. And in the evening....
One of the most indelibly etched memories from my camping experience. In the evening as dusk approached, the 200-some teenage campers and staff would congregate at the doors of the "Beit Ha'Am" [literally "House of People"] the cavernous, wooden hall used for all assemblies, plays, dances and indoor basketball games. Inside, the staff would have already set up the hall with dozens and dozens of white candles, lit and melted to the floor. Passing through the doors to the Beit Ha'Am, you would receive a much used photocopied set of papers -- the book of Lamentations -- and you would slowly file in and form small groups around the candles. And for the next, almost 2 hours, the entire camp assemblage would sit on the dusty wood floor of the Beit Ha'Am, lit only by candlelight, and read and chant and sing the mournful poetry of prayers traditional on this day.
I, like just about every other person in that dark hall, had never observed Tisha B'Av before my summers at camp. And I have not marked a Tisha B'Av since my last summer as a staffer at Tel Yehudah more than 10 years ago. Yet the sense of that night, sitting quietly with a hall-full of typical hormone- and fad-obsessed American teens and reciting words and singing melodies almost 2000 years old ... well, it still gives me goosepimples. Sure we dribbled the candle wax onto the floor and rolled the hot soft goo between our fingers. We yawned. We flipped through the photocopied packets to see how many pages there were left. And by the time we wandered back to our cabins under the crisp stars of the Delaware valley the spell had dissipated and we were back to being the ironic smart-asses we were supposed to be. But something took. And now, I realize the miracle and magic that for those few short hours our hall resonated as an electric bead on a wire of living history that delineated at least pieces of who we are and connected us millenia back to who we were.
Thanks to those bloggers who marked this day and provoked my memories and reflection.