“Shmuel” in Eretz Yisroel
I had a pretty strange experience during davening this morning.
It’s erev tisha b’av and as part of my mental preparation for the upcoming fast I cast my mind back to last year – and I remembered how I was unable to cry.
It’s not that I feel disconnected with the suffering of the Jewish people – on the contrary. Most prominent in my mind is the constant war we have been waging in Israel. My heart bleeds at the thought of the suffering of thousands of my borthers and sisters, whose closest relatives have been killed or injured. I think about the grieving families whose lives will never be the same again. I think about the ongoing terror in our homeland and yes my heart bleeds.
And I think about the spiritual destruction wreaking havoc for so much of world Jewry. I think of all the Jewish children growing up without any idea of what it means to be Jewish. I think of the frightening rates of intermarriage and assimilation, and of the spiritual death facing so many thousands more of my brothers and sisters. And again my heart bleeds.
And I think of how in so many ways we have become distant from our Creator and over this too I grieve.
I recall how there had been several times during the course of the year when I had shed tears over our suffering. Yet somehow tisha b’av came along and the tears just wouldn’t flow. I reminded myself again and again of all the suffering we had faced and were still facing. And I reminded myself how all of these things came as a direct result of the churban.
I heard the mournful tones of Eicha and the Kinnot, I was even sitting at the Kotel – the most tangible remnant of our beloved Beit HaMikdash and a poignant reminder of its absence. I tried to cry. I tried as hard as I could to force the tears to flow. Somehow they just didn’t.
So this morning I thought I’d get an early start this year. And as I stood in tefillah before Hashem I began asking Him to help me connect with the essence of the day coming up and to cry.
And then I stopped.
I thought to myself “what have I just done?”
Here I am standing and asking Hashem to make me cry. Could anything be more distorted than that? Hashem doesn’t want me to be shedding tears or to suffer. What was I saying?
So then I changed my prayer – I asked Hashem to bring about a tisha b’av where I wouldn’t have to cry. To bring about a time when, as the Navi promises, tisha b’av would be a day of simcha. Where tears would no longer be necessary.
We have been engulfed in a bitter exile for so long that in a lot of ways we have lost perspective. We’ve gotten so used to our present state that we often forget that this isn’t what normative Jewish living is about! Normal Jewish life is one in which the Beit HaMikdash stands, avodat haKohanim takes place every day, and we have the Sanhedrin leading us as a people. It’s a life in which there’s no argument about whether we really are the chosen people or not, whether the Torah’s true or not, whether the Jewish people have a right to love in Eretz Yisrael or not. It’s a life in which you don’t debate the existence of Hashem – you feel it!
We may not have been experienced it for the past 2000 years but that doesn’t change the fact – that’s what normal Jewish living is about. Our current bitter exile is not.
My experience this morning proved to me how far off the mark I currently am. It proved just how much work I have to do to be at the stage where I can honestly say I await and anticipate the coming of Mashiach every day.
May we be zocheh to see this time of suffering turned into a time of joy, bimherah beyamenu.
First published July 2007