Tonight is Tishaa Ba'av, and this fast is definitely one of the hardest days of the year for me. Not just because I am a horrible faster but because of all the feelings. I know there are many people out there that have a hard time connecting to the day. We are hungry, we watch a lot of Holocaust movies. We try to imagine what it would be like have the Beit Hamikdash back, but frankly it's all so abstract.
I have the opposite problem. I weep all the way through Eicha. It’s the same thing every year. I sit on the carpeted floor of my living room, open up the tanach from my year in seminary (that is so lovingly annotated all over the place). I turn on the recording of Eicha that Chabad has on their website and I follow along by the white light of my laptop.
For many years I was too sick to go to shul and I would sit with my child in my lap and sing to her. I would rock her back and forth as hot tears would stream down my face and she would fall asleep from the rise and fall of my voice in the darkness. My voice would break with pain, because I’ve known exile. Real exile. A body thin and weak, the isolation of being sick, being cut off from the community. In the dark it would be just me and my grief over being sick and what it stole from me.
So when I would read through Eicha with a baby in my arms, so ill that I could barely continue, I cried for those mothers who cry out in the text, the mothers who watched their lives burn down to the ground. Who watched peace dissipate, their nation broken. The emptiness when the shechinah was gone.
The only thing that got me through the time when I was sick, was the relationship I developed with God. I never prayed so intensely, I never felt to closer to Him, when I felt that no earthly doctor would be able to help me. Since I’ve gotten better, the intensity of that closeness has dissipated. Foolishly, since now I feel I can rely on my body to function, the immediacy of the miracle of movement doesn’t occur to me as often as it should. I learned that every moment we have is a gift from God and yet the memory is fading and I have to force myself to remember.
For me, this Tishaa Ba’av, the loss of the Beit Hamikdash means that I will mourn the loss of the presence of the Shechinah among us. The ability to feel so close to the Divine, to be filled with that joy and serenity. The certainty that we are not in control. I will relate to our national loss, by looking at it through the lens of my personal struggles.
I will pray for continued personal and national redemption. A return to when prayer tasted sweet on our lips, and we experienced the hand of God in our every moment. A future where we can sit with our loved ones in the light, enjoy His blessings in peace.