By Rabbi Jill Jacobs
Religious Affairs Committee

The holiday of Tisha b'Av, which commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem (586 BCE and 70 CE) and subsequent exile of the Jews, begins at sundown on Monday, July 26th. Jews around the world mourn for the loss of the Temple by fasting, reciting kinnot (mournful songs) and reading the book of Eicha (Lamentations), a eulogy for the destroyed city.

Today, when Jerusalem is again a place of intense pain for so many, Tisha b'Av takes on new significance. In mourning for Jerusalem, we not only mourn for the Temple that was, but we also express our longing that Jerusalem might yet become the city of peace.

The endurance of this mourning for Jerusalem, almost 2000 years after the destruction of the Temple, testifies to the central place of the Temple for Jewish theology and community. The Temple was not only a physical center point to which Jews made pilgrimages three times a year, but also a tangible representation of the divine.

One midrash1 (rabbinic tradition) wonders about the double use of the root "b-kh-a'' (cry) in the verse "bakho tivkeh balaila" ("[the city] weeps bitterly in the night") in the book of Eicha and suggests:

The city weeps and causes others weep with her. . .
She weeps and causes heaven and earth to weep with her. . .
She weeps and causes the mountains and hills to weep with her. . .
She weeps and causes all of the nations of the world to weep with her.

The midrash suggests that Jerusalem’s weeping is not self-contained; rather, the pain of Jerusalem causes weeping throughout the entire world—from the nations of the world to the sun and the moon to the mountains and hills to God Godself. Yet there is comfort in that no matter how deep our pain at the loss of Jerusalem, this pain is tempered by the knowledge that the entire world is crying with us.

This offers a dual challenge: First, will we accept the comfort that comes from knowing that our tears are shared by so many? Second, can we, similarly, allow ourselves to be moved to action by the tears of others—by all of the nations who share a love for Jerusalem and who weep for this city?

The midrash ends with the promise that our tears, shared by the entire world, will eventually bring redemption, along with the hope that Jerusalem can finally be the city of peace it was meant to be. This redemption, however, can only come through our own tears, combined with our openness to the tears of others.

May the shedding of tears connect us to the pain and hopeful vision that inspire our work for peace in Jerusalem and beyond.

Suggestions for Tish b'Av:

1. Review and discuss the arrangements for sharing the Temple Mount (Har ha-bayt in Hebrew and Haram Al-Sharif in Arabic) in Article 6 of the Geneva Accord.

2. Discuss how to respectfully share spaces sacred to more than one religion.

3. Share memories of Jerusalem both pleasant and painful.

If you have other ideas, please contact the Brit Tzedek Religious Affairs Committee.

1 In Eicha Rabbah, the largest collection of midrashim on the book of Eicha.

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