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When the world is burning, lament is necessary

07/27/2023 01:19:17 PM


Rabbi Faryn Borella

From the Southside Jewish Collaborative Tisha B'Av Service Wednesday, July 26, 2023

When the world is burning, lament is necessary.
And boy is our world burning.
So we must lament.

But oftentimes, we don’t make time to lament. We, instead, focus on what feels more urgent. We focus on the fire. What is necessary to put it out. But this leaves us always in response mode, without time to look for what caused the fire in the first place. Without time to grieve both its origin and its impact. In our world, we try to combat injustice without grieving it first.

This is the wisdom of Tisha B’Av.

Tisha B’Av teaches us that grief is necessary. Mourning is necessary. Lament is necessary. We must grieve for what is ongoing, and we must grieve for what is long historical. For, if we don’t grieve, we too become one of the sources of the fire. The first step in healing the world is grieving it.

So Tisha B’Av is to the year cycle what shiva is to the life cycle. It provides for us a ritualized, routinized time in our year for acts of mourning, and this time-bound mourning practice acts as a pressure valve. If we unscrew the valve just once a year and release some of the steam, it relieves us, at least in small part, of all that we are holding. And it carves out, inside of us, a little more capacity for love, and for action.

So just as we would in shiva, tonight we enter a period of mourning. We sit on the floor. We don’t bathe, or anoint, or wear leather. We refrain from social speech, instead focusing on allowing our inner grief to speak.

I know, for many, it can feel morose, to sit and stew in our own grief. To read gruesome tales of destruction long historical. Why dredge up a painful past? To what end?

But when I hear the story of the destruction of Jerusalem as read in the Book of Eicha, I don’t simply hear what happened in 586 BCE. I hear what happened to the Jews in 1492 in Spain, or to Jews all over Eurasia and North Africa during the Holocaust. I hear what happened in Armenia in the early 20th century and Rwanda in the late 20th century. I hear what is happening to people of color in this country today. To queer people. To trans people. To people with disabilities. To the houseless in our city. To those suffering with addiction. I hear all of the world’s suffering in this primal cry. We read of the destruction of Jerusalem to read of the destruction of the world. We lament the destruction of Jerusalem to lament the destruction of the world. And we lament the destruction of the world as the first step toward healing it.

So this evening, let us allow ourselves to find that primal place of grief inside of us, and let it scream. Let us open the valve and let our grief pour forth. And let us awake in the morning with just a little bit more wiggle room inside of ourselves. To feel. To act. To love.

Sat, July 20 2024 14 Tammuz 5784