Tisha B’Av: Lamenting Our Sins or Our Suffering? Zoom Lecture by Marc Ashley
Monday, July 27, 7:30 pm, Zoom
Click to view lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaATrUZhbw8
T isha B’Av seems to be an anomaly on the Jewish calendar. Coming in the wake of Shavuot that joyously celebrates the gift of our Torah, and falling amidst summer warmth and bloom, this 25-hour fast is the saddest day of the year. But what is the nature of the sadness we should be feeling? What, indeed, is the spiritual essence of this distinctive day?
The answer is complex, as Tisha B’Av embodies competing conceptions of God and Jewish history. On the one hand, the Rabbis of the Talmud taught that the destruction of both ancient Temples on Tisha B’Av reflectd God’s punishment for our sins, including gratuitous enmity among fellow Jews. Within this theological framework, Jewish tragedy is directly attributable to our misconduct. On the other hand, Jewish tradition over time made Tisha B’Av a repository of numerous calamities, a day of mourning largely free of guilt. In combination, Tisha B’Av has thus become a hybrid day of lamentation for both deserved tragedies and unjustified suffering. Its mixed religious nature begs the question of whether our focus should be on our repentance or our resilience.
The book of Eikha (Lamentations) that we read on Tisha B’Av evening embodies this spiritual conundrum. Its poignant text reflects theological conceptions that frame God’s anger as both justified and unconstrained, that explain Jewish pain as a byproduct of both wrongdoing and victimhood. Perhaps Eikha’s paradoxical presentation of God should be unsurprising, as Exodus depicts God’s attributes as encompassing both infinite kindness and unremitting justice. But it may nevertheless leave us with disquieting concerns about God’s temper.
Please join us on the evening of Monday, July 27, in advance of the fast day later that week, as congregant Marc Ashley explores Tisha B’Av’s mosaic of complex themes, reflecting diverse perspectives of both God and the Jewish historical experience. In the Or Zarua tradition, Jewish learning can accompany and inform our observance of this important day.