Monday, July 19, 2010

The Challenge of Becoming Sad, by Shoshanna Silcove

 I am a happy person. Life is good. Learning and practicing Chassidus has trained me to be in a good mood most of the time. Preparing my mind set for Tisha B'Av is  not easy. My mood is too buyount. I am filled with gratitude for all the blessings the Almighty has bestowed upon me.

How many of us in this generation can really cry over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash? In generations past most Yidden would regularly wake up in the middle of the night and tear their garments and weep over it. They felt its loss as if it happened to them. Nowadays, in this generation,  if we're honest with ourselves we would have to admit, besides being uncomfortable from fasting, we can barely conjure up a sincere tear or two for the destruction. Certainly, many of us can cry over our own personal tragedies, or over the tragedies of others, but to actually cry for the Beis Hamikdash being destroyed is a another story altogether.

Let's say a person's father left her when she was a baby and she grew up without knowing her father. One day she is told her father died. She must sit shiva and go through all the rituals of mourning but, does she really mourn? She tears her garment, sits on a low stool, refrains from washing, covers the mirrors of her house, and does all the other mitzvot included in sitting shiva for one's parent, but she is only going through the motions. She has no close bond to her father having never known him. She cannot feel any sense of loss in her life because she never had anything to lose in the first place.  This is akin to what many of us experience today when trying to conjure up a sense of loss for the Beis Hamikdash.

I have learned in Torah classes that in order to appreciate the loss of the Beis HaMikdash one should learn about it. And in Chabad our custom is to study the halachas regarding the building of the Beis HaMikdash. Chabad Chassidus always focuses on the positive and we focus on the destruction as sowing the seeds for the rebuilding with the coming of Moshiach.  By studying the halachas of the Temple we are spiritually participating in its imminent construction. That is all fine and good, but is still leaves me feeling cold. There is a disconnect between studying about the Beis Hamikdash and  my emotions. I still cannot truly mourn its loss.

There are many other things I can mourn, both personal losses I have experienced, and current and past tragedies of others around me and stories I read and hear about. Unfortunately, in this dark galus (exile) there is no shortage of pain. Nevertheless, none of those feelings of pain and loss compare to the deep sadness we are supposed to feel about the Destruction.

There is an old Chassidishe saying, "In generations past the Yidden had stomachs made of lead and minds made of silk. In this generation we have stomachs made of silk and minds made of lead".  As the generation of the Redemption we are the dwarfs standing on the shoulders of the giants of yesteryear. Our mission is not the same as theirs. We do not have their capacities spiritually.

This Tisha A B'Av I will once again attempt to think sad thoughts, read my books about the Holocaust, and study the laws of building the Beis HaMikdash.  In between trying not to focus on feeling famished, I will make my feeble attempt once more at trying to grasp the essence of the tragedy of the day. And if that doesn't work, if I cannot feel an appropriate sense of loss, I will then chalk it up to being a member of a weaker generation, and I will thank Ha Kodesh Baruch Hu for all the wonderful blessings in my life.

Have an easy fast. 

Watch a video about the Temple Mount


Shoshana Z. said...

My husband is fond of relating similar thoughts at our seder table. His path is to eat truly gargantuan amounts of maror at that point in the seder and is left burning and weeping at the end. It's not in order to prove his machismo. He relates that at that moment when he is truly in pain and suffering, he tries to think of all the things he encountered during that year that should have made him cry, but didn't. Tisha B'Av has the same power. It is a vessel that allows us to tap into the pain we see around us but are so hardened to. And hopefully we come out the other side more sensitive to our fellow Jews and all of humanity on a level that is truly deserving of the Bais haMikdash.

Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions