Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Corona and Tisha BeAv Creatov Decorative Dali Watch Melting Clock ...
It is erev Tisha beAv. Except that we are living in a time where the very essence of time shifted, switched, became elastic. Days blend one into another, hours melt, distorted, like Dali clocks, minutes simultaneously gallop by and stretch into molasses. The very rhythms of the Jewish year seem meaningless. We are given Three Weeks during the summer to mourn about the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (The Temple), culminating in the saddest day of tragedy: Tisha BeAv. But this year is not like any other year. Since the lockdown began in March, we have been in a modified state of mourning. We are not allowed to gather together socially, which is one of the essential messages of Tisha BeAv, reflected in the minhagim of not having company during Three Weeks, eating the last meal alone, without zimun, and not greeting each other. We were unable to get haircuts because hair cutting is not essential. The laundering of clothes and general grooming/bathing fell by the wayside, as very few saw us both inside our houses and out. The listening to live music ceased because there was simply no more live music. Taking pleasurable, distracting trips became impossible because there were no places to go. The mask became a constant physical reminder of our current state, similar to the black worn by mourners.

The causes and reasons for Tisha BeAv are numerous. Five are famously mentioned, with a dictum that "calamity occurs on a day of calamity" applied widely. In some ways, we are left with severe punishment from Hashem, of a different order of magnitude than any other punishment, and are left to reconstruct what went wrong and what was so horrible that we are still picking up the pieces, all these many millennia later.

As a recoup, the "original sin" was that of the spies, slandering Israel and causing people to cry in their tents. Somehow this melting of the hearts aroused a degree of Divine anger not experienced previously. The verdict was that the entire nation would spend 40 years in the desert until that generation would die out.

That sin was followed by the destruction of both Temples. The reasons given are that people didn't keep mitzvot during first one, and engaged in baseless hatred during the second one. Gemara seems to list a few other less popular opinions. Again, it seems that we are left with a verdict while trying to reconstruct what is the defect in need of correction.

For the past few days, I have been feeling disoriented. Every morning I woke up, wondering whether today is Tisha BeAv. Every day I got my morning coffee in this funny state of feeling that I'm transgressing. Yesterday, as I walked and sun was heading towards sunset, I felt a certain resignation, almost as if my dinner was that final meal before the fast. This is not how I normally experience Three Weeks. I do not believe in asceticism, or need for prolonged and excessive suffering. I do not relish fasting or mourning. One of my resolutions after a year of mourning for my father was over, was to attend every wedding that I could. So I was taken aback with personal eagerness and anticipation of more pain, more restrictions.

I wonder if living in a constant state of minor mourning desensitized me and is behind this anticipation of greater emotion. But I realized one more thing:

-Three Weeks and Tisha BeAv are finite. We go through concentric circles of deeper mourning, focusing all our energy of yearning for Jerusalem until the Tenth of Av comes. Then we remove all the symbols of mourning and experience joy. There is no gradual decrease (unless you count half a day of Tenth, but not this year because Shabbos pushes everything off). We are free to rejoice and encouraged not to mourn excessively.

-The lockdown is the opposite. It's mild, it can be almost put out of mind, but it has no ending point. We do not know when we will be able to do all those social activities fully, without reservations. Those who jump the gun and do them anyway are not viewed as acting wisely. So the state of minor mourning and separation continues, without an end in sight.

The tenth of Av this year will bring laundry and morning coffee. It will not bring weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, 7 Haftarot of consolation, music performances, summer vacations, fun outings, amusement parks. We will still be in the same state of social mourning that we had been until now.

So how do we get out of this? 

Wear a mask, stay away from others as much as possible, listen to the sound advice of medical experts, and look out for others, even if you cannot see them in person. We all need to leave our mourning world. It will happen, but it is up to us how long it will take.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back to publishing space, missed your writing. Hope all is good with you and yours.