Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
We have learned from the Ancient Chinese Tao that there is a spot of Yang in the Yin and a spot of Yin in the Yang, redemptive light to be found in darkness and a black hole in every illumination. As a People, we are approaching the black hole of destruction that is Tisha B’Av, whence we commemorate our loss of the Great Temples in Jerusalem, the place of our most visceral connection with the Divine. This, in the midst of the warmest sunshine and the relatively carefree days of summer. As individuals, we are approaching the moment our sacred calendar offers to identify personal darkness, the dark point from which we long to rise up in teshuvah, restoring our lives to a more authentic expression of who we are or want to be. This, too, is Tisha B’Av, whence we mark the beginning of our Awesome Days, the time when we are in closest connection to our truest selves.
Summer began with the festival of Shavuot, as we celebrated God’s revelation and our reception of Torah. What could be more climactic? But from there, the biblical narrative spiraled downward to Israel’s worship of the Golden Calf and the Spies’ discouraging report on the Promised Land, the report that deterred Israel from taking her next step.
Our tradition layers the Spies’ report onto Tisha B’Av as the earliest of the long list of Jewish calamities to have occurred on this date. Just as the tragedies of the Jewish people are clustered, conflated into one day, surely our personal sorrows are also a pile-up of repetitions of the same heartbreaks, based on the mistakes we make over and over. Tisha B’Av is a time to remember that until we learn from our repeated missteps, and move on, our unresolved issues will continue to express themselves as a series of similar losses.
As we conclude the book of Bamidbar, Israel has come ‘round to a second opportunity to enter the Promised Land. The first step toward entering our own Promise is to allow ourselves to acknowledge loss. We have a week, now, to anticipate the relief of a cloak of darkness, the comfort of darkness that Tisha B’Av has the potential to be, wherein we can, quite literally, sit in the dark, let down our guard, and cry for what was. Let’s take this time to consider what our personal lament is, this year. Perhaps it is only by way of entering that black hole that we can begin to see a new glimmer of light, a Yang in our Yin.