Tisha b’Av (the 9th of the month of Av), the day Jews mourn the loss of the Temple and their subsequent exile, is one of those holidays that never made too much sense growing up. Let me explain by recounting a story told to me by my teacher Rabbi David Hartman. Following the Six Day War, Hartman, who was a rabbi in Montreal, was commemorating Tisha b’Av with his congregation. He had just been in Israel celebrating its glorious victory. As he looked out into his congregation he became increasingly disturbed. Shaking his head and saying to himself, “What are they mourning for? We have returned! We have returned to our homeland.” Hartman got up from his seat, walked over to the podium, and asked for his congregation’s attention. They were sitting on the floor saying over lamentations, but they looked up from their prayer books and gave their ears to their spiritual leader. Looking at them in shock and disbelief Hartman exclaimed, “I want you all to know that the Jewish people are singing and dancing in the streets of Jerusalem while you are sitting here and crying.” He then went back to his seat and the bewildered congregation went back to mourning.
In recent years, Hartman’s enthusiasm has become tempered by the reality that we have not been fully redeemed and maybe we are still in a state of mourning. The tumultuous events of the past few weeks in Gaza and Lebanon remind us just how important that reality check is. It’s a shame, but this year we all have so much to be mourning about.