So, the temple has fallen down again. Our regular life has been shaken up and we are bereft – there’s a space where the ordinary; the way we connect to God once was, and now we need to reinvent the faith. It was such a big moment in Jewish history, that we reenact it again and again so that we can experience it ourselves. We pile other stories of sadness and realise, that in our own lives, we build temples. Temples in the air, temples in our hearts – temples of structure and normalcy, that we use as our conduits to living a good spiritual life, that we use as our connection to what we call God. No matter whether we are Jewish, have a different faith, or are atheist, there are the elements of our lives that we rely on, that we hope will be there from year to year, that we don’t even always think about or realise the full importance of until they’re gone.
Maybe this is a necessary start to the cycle of introspection and realisation, self-work and refocus, teshuva and a new way of doing things that comes with the High Holidays. I’ve blogged on Tisha B’Av before (and I’m probably getting repetitive because I deliberately don’t look at my previous posts when writing these) but I know I need to do so again. Because this is real, and it is part of my yearly cycle. Every year, no matter how carefully I try to build war-proof temples that WILL NOT FALL, or how much I promise myself no temples at all this year, a temple falls down.
It could be anything – a lost wallet or necklace, an ending to a relationship or even a marriage, a death of a close one, a move, the kids growing up, a school, park, synagogue or other institution not being what you remembered when you were a kid, a fire or break-in, an illness, disappointment in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals, or even brand new goals that disrupt normalcy and are hard to achieve. All of these happened this year to people I know and care for, and possibly, some, to myself as well. Some are minor, some are major, but all reconfigure what is true about life and the way I live it.
So, I start looking at ways I can reimagine my faith. Maybe I stop connecting to God through that person? Do I need a new person as my confidante? Maybe I stop utilising that institution. Is there another one that will work better, or do I break away from institutions entirely? Maybe I just replace my wallet -but this might be the opportunity to get that 3-D spider man one I’ve always wanted.
The temple is gone. Despite my dislike of change, there’s nothing but rubble where once it stood. The new development won’t get unbuilt to give me back that corner of wilderness, and my kids won’t get smaller, move back in and need bedtime stories again. Dead people stay dead. I mourn, because big or small, the losses of this year are real, are legitimate and it’s OK to be sad. I take as long as I need to grieve, because that’s important.
(Explanation of Tisha B’av: Jews occasionally need practice showing emotion. We have days of joy and merriment, but we need a day where there are rules about sadness too. This is an opportunity for us to be sad.We remember all the sad things that happened to the Jewish people – the destruction of our temples, the death of our elders, the pogroms and expulsions, the devastation and despair and loneliness and hopelessness and helplessness and loss. We sit on the floor. We fast. We don’t hug or sing or swim or dance. We don’t distract ourselves with the everyday. We allow ourselves to just be sad.)
But as I eat my eggs at the end of the day, I think about the potential involved in eggs, a cycle of rebirth that is phoenix-like in its glory. The Jewish people used the destruction of the temple to build a faith that can be celebrated in a small corner of a small village by ten people with a book. They built a faith of song and dance and love and fun and rules and order and learning and practicality and story and life. They built something new that was not just good – not as good as the temple, not a replacement of the temple, not a patched up version of the temple – they built something completely new, and as a proud Jewess I can say – something glorious. How can I build some thing new this year? What do I do to make something glorious?
This year, I want to start looking for the glory now, today. I open my heart to possibility, because I know I need it. I say, “I will not be trapped by the patterns of the past that have stopped working.” I stop above all building the negative anti-temples of despair and hopelessness. I reach out to God wherever I can – I reach for glory. I celebrate Tisha B’Av fully, acknowledging the disaster in my life and then, painting the past beautiful but over, I move on to my glorious future.
Because it is definitely time to get a new glow-in-the-dark Dora the Explorer wallet, right?