As I’ve mentioned before, many of the familiar Jewish holidays have
an agricultural connection and are tied to the climate and planting cycle in
the land of Israel. Ergo, much of our holiday cycle seems out of sync to those
of us living in New York – never mind those in the Southern hemisphere!
Tisha b’Av is a different type of holiday, though. This year, the 9th
of the month of Av corresponded to July 27, but the season surrounding it is
much longer. Tisha b’Av is connected to history, not ecology. In the three
weeks leading up to it – beginning with the 17th of Tammuz, a fast
marking the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem – we recall the destruction of
the Temple. During the “Three Weeks” as they are commonly called, we are
supposed to be in a state of mourning. After Tisha b’Av, we turn things around,
with seven weeks of consolation, reading comforting passages from the prophet
So, for a full ten weeks, the Jewish calendar attempts to direct
It can be hard to summon grief on cue, especially in the summer, as
many of us plan vacations, barbecues, and time with family and friends. But I
think it can be equally challenging to take comfort when directed as well, all
the more so when we are surrounded by causes of extreme discomfort – from the
passage of the judicial overhaul in Israel to rising incidents of antisemitism,
to the current political climate in the US, to the actual climate. We
have plenty to be concerned about and it can require active effort to follow
the directive to comfort ourselves.
I think our tradition acknowledges this struggle best through
numbers. We get three weeks to mourn, but a full seven weeks to recover.
Isaiah, on God’s behalf, repeats his words of comfort twice: nachamu, nachamu ami – take comfort,
take comfort my people. And we can continue to seek the comfort of strength in
numbers, whether by joining a group movement to advocate for positive change,
or, in our individual times of grief, feeling the support of family and
Remember that your B’nai Sholom family is always here for you, and we look forward to seeing our numbers (i.e. all of you) on full display in September as we gather for the High Holy Days!