Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Synchronicity and Tisha b’Av Amid Record-Breaking Heat for Seattle

posted by David Klinghoffer

When I got home last night ready to start the 25-hour fast of Tisha b’Av (no food, water, or bathing from sunset till dark the next day), mourning the destruction of the two Jerusalem Temples and much else that’s tragic in Jewish history, the temperature was 105 degrees. Amazing! In Seattle, where thanks to the mellow, cool weather, nobody but the rich have air-conditioning in their homes! Today’s not much better — as I write at 6 pm it’s 97 degrees. Still more than three hours left to go. Both our home and our synagogue are cooled only by fans, though thank God the office where I work is nicely air conditioned. My wife is having a less easy time of it at home. Luckily, our kids, who are too young to fast, don’t seem much bothered. 

I believe in synchronicity, the idea that juxtapositions of time and events not only may seem meaningful but do in fact convey real meaning. See Jung on that. If a tough fast comes on a day of record-breaking heat, I assume there’s meaning in it for me, and I don’t see it as a congratulatory “Job well done!” sort of pat on the back from the Holy One Blessed Be He. 
You can’t read the book of Lamentations, whose chanting represents the centerpiece of Tisha b’Av, without seeing suffering as a message. The book recounts the suffering that accompanied the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. Much of it had to do with physical deprivation. When you fast, you neither feel nor look your best. So this verse from Lamentations caught my attention, referring to the Nazirites who previously had been specimens of health; now, “Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick” (4:8). That’s about how I think I must appear right now.

The Talmud explains the tragedy of 70 CE, the last time Jerusalem was overturned and the Temple burned — on Tisha b’Av — as a consequence of God’s withdrawing his favor from the Jews. Their offense? A certain low narrow-spiritedness, selfishness in interpersonal relations, easily giving and taking offense, as in the story of Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza. Updated, the story might be called Gates and Crowley, but without the Obama-hosted beers of reconciliation.
I can see myself in Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza. Is this Tisha b’Av an especially pointed message to me? But then what about everyone else in Seattle, Jewish and not Jewish? Can it represent the same message to all of them? It would seem highly unlikely. Clearly, synchronicity and providence in general demand a more complicated picture of reality than we are accustomed to dealing in.


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Yirmi

posted July 30, 2009 at 10:05 pm


Thank you for the interesting post. This synchronicity idea is close to many Jewish ideas about divine providence. Here’s a relevant quote from Rabbi Natan of Breslov, the chief disciple of Rebbe Nachman:
“May God help you understand the hints contained in everything in the world; may he show you how, through them, you can draw closer to Him each and every day: depending on the individual, the place and the time. Everything that happens in the world, be it life or death, rising prices or falling prices, poverty or wealth, or any other occurrence or incident that takes place in the world — globally, nationally, locally, or to an individual — all happens only in order to remind us of God specifically through this.”
From Healing Leaves. Similar ideas are also found in Garden of Emuna by R’ Shalom Arush.
Have you heard about how Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention — the one that made him famous — occurred on Tisha B’Av? Some, like R’ Lazer Brody, finds much significance in this. I expect many people might now, with the East Jerusalem fiasco and all.



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Yirmi

posted July 30, 2009 at 10:27 pm


Lately I’ve been trying to keep a journal of the meaningful coincidences that happen to me. Many seem quite impressive at the time, but they’re easy to forget if they’re not recorded. The ideal, I think, is not just to notice such coincidences, but to try to figure out what their actual message is to the individual. If nothing else, they can remind us that there is something greater in the universe, giving us another chance to pray to Hashem, thank Him or feel thankful to Him, or meditate. It is easy to go through most of the day (minus davening sessions and blessings) to completely forget about God and our true purpose on this earth, to achieve our soul correction and come close to Him. But it is best to always have God in mind — even when working, it is good to continually pray, for example that things go well at work, and that we have faith and do not worry about making a living, but also keep in mind that we are only working so that we can have enough money to serve Hashem by living a Torah life, funding mitzvot like tzedakah, etc. Anything that reminds us of God is good, and synchronicities — little reminders of God’s providence — are a wonderful example. Tzitzit are another, of course — in the Bible God gives the purpose of the tzitzit to remind us to follow His commandments (which include the constant commandments to love Him, know Him, and believe in Him.)



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Turmarion

posted July 31, 2009 at 12:15 am


What an amazing coincidence that you wrote about synchronicity…. ;) Actually, while I have reservations about some of Jung’s stuff, I do think there is something to synchronicity. Very interesting post.



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Your Name

posted July 31, 2009 at 12:45 am


I don’t know much about Jewish history, but I like your post about synchronicity. I hope you’ll drop by our blog on the topic – http://www.ofscarabs.blogspot.com
Best,
Trish MacGregor



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Phil

posted July 31, 2009 at 7:18 am


I prefer to call it serendipity, though when the “coincidence” is not that pleasant I can see where synchronicity would be more appealing



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Marian

posted August 1, 2009 at 9:21 pm


Halakhah is absolutely clear that you do not flirt with dehydration merely because it is Tisha B’Av (or Yom Kippur, for that matter.)



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