I wish it were Tisha B’Av*, so we could sit on the floor in the dark, with just a few candles and mumble prayers and grieve. We could read Eicha / Lamentations, the book of Torah that begins, “How?” and know that there is sometimes no satisfying answer.
I wish it were Tisha B’Av because that day feels like a communal shiva, a house of mourning for all. It feels we are in shiva together now, shocked to find we are grieving a direction for America that has abruptly reversed course. We are out of breath. Everything is slower. No one tries to be clever, we just shake our heads and ask, “How?”
On Tisha B’Av there is certain, precise kind of grief because we remember that we were not innocent victims, rather, we had something to do with the destruction of the Temple. We all own a piece of it. The rabbis have suggestion after suggestion about what really caused it to fall. Were we too cruel to each other? Too insular? Too interested in our own laws and protocol at the expense of justice? We are implicated, then and now, for those same forces. But the rabbis use that destruction, and our implication in it, not as the end but as the beginning. They try to understand from that dark place what a society must be. They know that even if the Temple was destroyed the lessons we learned there must live on, our way of being holy and just and generative in the world depends on those lessons.
So for we Jews + we who do Jewish, it is a dark day, but we have been here before. We know what it is like to lose most everything. We know from Talmud that we cannot stay hidden in the ruins of what was, what we wanted life to be, what we wished it were. Rather we must take our prayers, even if they are shorter, even if they are rushed, back to the messy streets where they can do some good and be added to many other prayers.
This destruction must become our starting point. We will first take our time to mourn and see all that fell, to console one another. And then, even in our disappointment, we will stand up from the darkness and we will carry that question “How?” into the light.
We have been here before. Once we allow ourselves to absorb the weight of what has happened in our time, on our watch, we will return to the streets and begin again.
Rabbi Noa Kushner, November 9, 2016
* Day we mourn the destruction, thousands of years ago, of the Temple in Jerusalem.