T isha b'Av: Mourning Forces Us
To Ask Why We Have Suffered
— no, I — can do about it?
We call this Shabbat, Shabbat
Chazon, named after the haftorah we
read in shul. We read of the "Chazon,"
the vision of the prophet Isaiah. In
graphic and unambiguous language, he
predicts the downfall of the first Jewish
hate Tisha b'Av. But that's okay,
monarchy and the destruction of the
because I'm supposed to hate it. It
isn't a fun day.
What actions warrant the destruction
Tisha b'Av (the Ninth of Av),
of the Temple and the wholesale slaugh-
the single most calamitous day of the
ter of an entire community? Is it the
Jewish calendar, falls on Thursday, July
faulty political and military moves made
18. From sundown on Wednesday
by an overconfident king? Hardly. Isaiah
through nightfall on Thursday (here in
doesn't care about politics or
Detroit, that's about 10 p.m.),
the military. Rather, he focus T
we fast, we don't bathe or wear
es on how Jews behave in
leather shoes and we mourn
their daily lives, saying:
by reading Eichah, or Book of
"Wash yourselves, purify
Lamentations, and kinot, the
yourselves, remove the evil of
somber laments that recount
your doings from before My
the almost endless suffering of
eyes; desist from doing evil."
the Jewish people throughout
In his classic work on
Jewish law, the Chafetz
While we mourn the
Chaim, Rabbi Israel Meir
destruction of the Temple, we
Kagan of Radin,
also mourn the devastation of
all too often we
the Jewish people and the suf-
for the trees.
fering of Jews throughout the
We spend an entire day fast-
Special to the
centuries. We mourn the
ing and reading the
onslaught of the Greek and
Lamentations, without once
Roman armies against the
stopping to think about how
Jewish community in Israel 2,000 years
we lead our lives and whether we've
ago. We lament the persecution of the
done anything to prevent the need for
Inquisition in Spain and Portugal 1,500
fasting in the first place.
years later. We cry for the victims of the
If you were not planning to fast —
Holocaust of last century and the sui-
do it! It won't be easy, but often the act
cide bombings of last month.
provides far greater
fulfillment than self-
indulgence. And if
you were planning to
fast, don't forget that
the fasting isn't an end
in and of itself, but
the means to an end.
If each of us spends
at least some time
during the day focus-
ing not just on how
Ultimately, we mourn the senseless
hungry we are, but on why we are fast-
hatred of Jews and the almost unbear-
ing in the first place and how we can
able suffering that hatred has caused us
make ourselves better people and better
throughout the years. As the Yiddish
Jews, then perhaps the last suicide
saying goes, Zis shyer tsu zein a Yid ("It's
bombing in Israel will truly be the last
hard to be a Jew").
suicide bombing ever.
But Judaism never considers mourn-
That's a vision all of us can work for
ing an exercise in self-indulgence. Rather
together. Have a meaningful fast. 
than simply giving us a way to focus on
how much we've suffered, mourning
forces us to confront why we have suf-
fered as well. What have we been doing
wrong? Why do we still, after all these
How does your private behavior,
years, suffer? And is there anything we
both religious and secular — in
WE ARE PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE
DR. SHIRT G. GORDINIER
HAS JOINED OUR STAFF
We mourn the destruction
of the Temple and the
devastation of the Jewish
Reuven Spolter is rabbi of Young Israel
of Oak Park.
shul and at work — affect the
Jewish people in a very real way?
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