I love to write about Jewish holidays and events on this blog--it helps remind ME what the essence of the holiday is, and I love that it gives you all insight into a world that can be hard to understand from the outside.
Today is the saddest day of the year in Judaism. It's the day that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed thousands of years ago, and it's also the day when we mourn all of the tragedies that have happened to the Jewish people since then. We call it Tisha B'av. We fast and we don't shower and we sit on the floor. It's a hard day, but an important one.
When you think about it, there's this thread of tragedy and intensity in the world that we (or at least I) mostly ignore. You hear about a sudden death or an awful tragedy and while you're shaken for a moment, you go on with your life, worrying about what to make for dinner and if your shoes clash with your top. Tisha B'Av is a day to see the unseeable, to take the unbearable and force yourself to stare it in the face. It's a day when we realize this beautiful world is also a place of unspeakable darkness sometimes.
But what's the point of all this depressing sadness? According to the rabbis, there are two kinds of sadness--the kind that cripples you, and the kind that motivates you. I try to use this day to widen my perspective, to realize there are bigger things going on in the world than me and my concerns. I'm in a world filled with too much darkness, and it's my job to create as much light as I possibly can.
So today, I'm thinking of the Fogel family of Itamar, Leiby Kletzky, Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, the boys killed in the Mercaz Harav shooting, the victims of 9-11, and all of the people who were killed in the Holocaust, including many of my family members. I'm thinking of a girl my grandmother once told me about, who was so desperate to escape the horrifying reality of Auschwitz that she kept her head in a novel, all the way to the gas chambers. And I'm also thinking of all the work there is to be done, and all of the opportunities for good I can seize as long as I look outside of myself.