This was the most meaningful and focused Tisha B’Av I had experienced, at least that I can remember. Astounding to me given that I have spent a few at the Kotel. What made this year so different?
I believe it to primarily be two things.
The first, that I was asked to teach a women’s class the Shabbat before last. Although I try to learn about Tisha B’Av as much as possible during the Three Weeks every year, I simply learn more when I teach. I feel more compelled and more motivated. I need to try and recreate that dilligence as a student in the coming years.
I have expressed my gratitude for living in the small community that I do in many blog posts. In my mind I keep returning to my hakarat hatov that although it has been Hashem’s will to exile me (again) from the land of Israel, that I am blessed to be in a place that has helped me work on myself, my spiritual growth, and to become a teacher of Torah.
Secondly, as I have also written about before, I am truly enjoying “phase II” with my children. There have been many changes in our lives since we have gone, slowly, from a house “full of babies” to a house with no babies at all. This year I was able to have a meaningful dialogue – more than once – with my older children about the meaning of the day. Their comprehension led to their help and cooperation in allowing my husband and I to mourn properly. Their participation in our mitzvah, and their perception of it as just that, heightened the whole day for me and allowed me to focus more sharply. Even my talking to them repeatedly, or sharing a Tisha B’av video or thought helped me learn more, again, through teaching.
My oldest daughter is now at an age where I can leave her in charge for limited amounts of time under limited circumstances. Last night being one of those, I was able to go hear Eicha in shul for the first time in eleven years! Being with my community and hearing our amazing community Rav expound on the Kinot contributed so much to the day for me.
All that has happened is time; time for my daughter to grow up and time for the rest of the kids to be mature enough to understand why they need to listen to her for the evening and let me do this.
I am so very happy that entering “phase II” with our family allowed me to so successfully feel sad.
I hope that your Tisha B’av was meaningful and redemptive.
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I am reprinting an older post taken from an article by a friend (and multitalented genius) Dr. Michael Segal. This is reprinted in several places, but you can visit his website at: http://segal.org/kippur/. The advice is equally helpful for Tisha B’Av….
Fasting [for Yom Kippur] (From a Medical Perspective)
Michael M. Segal MD PhD
Don’t get thirsty:
Most people think the difficulty about fasting is feeling “hungry”. However, avoiding thirst is much more important for how you feel. Not only do you avoid the discomfort of thirst but you are also well hydrated and swallow frequently, so your stomach does not feel as empty.
One important way to remain well hydrated is to avoid drinks or foods that cause your body to get rid of water. Such foods and drinks include alcohol, tea, caffeinated coffee and chocolate. Another important rule is to avoid consuming much salt. Salt causes a person to feel thirsty despite having a “normal” amount of water, because extra water is needed for the extra salt. For this reason you should avoid processed foods containing lots of salt such as pickles, cold cuts, or cheese. Most tomato sauces, canned fish and smoked fish have a lot of added salt. Since Kosher meat has a high salt content it may be best to choose a main course such as fresh fish, canned no-salt tuna fish or a de-salted meat such as boiled chicken.
By avoiding these types of foods and drinks in the several hours before a fast, you can avoid either losing water or needing extra water. Other actions that cause the body to lose water, such as perspiring in warm clothing, should also be avoided during the fast.
Don’t start the pre-fast meal on a full stomach:
The pre-fast meal often begins at 5 PM, so a large lunch could prevent you from eating enough immediately before the fast. It is best to have a small lunch, or no lunch at all. A large breakfast early in the day based on cereals, breads and fruits can provide the energy you need during the day, yet these high-fiber foods will be far downstream by the time of the pre-fast meal and will not keep you from eating enough food at the pre-fast meal. A large breakfast is also helpful because it stretches the stomach. After eating breakfast, it is best to consume beverages during the day. This will not fill you up, since liquids are absorbed quickly, and this will ensure that you have absorbed enough fluids during the day to start the pre-fast meal being well hydrated. Be sure to avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine. You should also drink at least two glasses of fluids with the pre-fast meal because many foods need extra water to be digested properly.
Eat foods that are digested slowly:
Include some foods high in oils and fats in the pre-fast meal, since such foods delay emptying of the stomach and effectively prolong your meal. However, beware of fatty meats or salted potato chips that could load you up with too much salt. Salads and other high fiber foods that are so important in one’s normal diet should be de-emphasized for the pre-fast meal since they travel quickly through the digestive system. Fruit, despite its high fiber content, is worthwhile since it carries a lot of water in a “time-release” form.
Don’t get a headache:
Withdrawing from caffeine produces a headache in people who drink several cups of coffee a day. If you consume this much caffeine in coffee or other foods or drinks you should prepare yourself for the caffeine-free period by reducing or eliminating caffeine from your diet in the days before Yom Kippur. Don’t try to get through the fast by drinking coffee right before Kol Nidre, since this will cause you to lose a lot of water.
Make the meal tasty enough so people will eat:
The pre-fast meal doesn’t have be bland. Spices such as lemon or herbs are fine for fasting, but salt and monosodium glutamate should be reduced as much as possible.
Don’t do a complete fast if you have certain medical problems:
People with medical conditions such as diabetes should consult their doctors and rabbis before fasting. Certain medications need to be taken during Yom Kippur, and it is important to swallow them with enough water to avoid pills getting stuck on the way to the stomach and damaging the esophagus. Fasting by women who are pregnant or breast feeding can also be dangerous. If a young person who has not fasted much before has unusual difficulty fasting you should discuss this with your doctor since this happens in some serious metabolic problems in which fasting can be very dangerous.
Don’t eat improperly after the fast:
Even people who have prepared well for fasting will be hungry afterwards. Be sure not to eat food too quickly at the post-fast meal. Begin the break-fast meal with several glasses of milk or juice: these put sugar into the bloodstream and occupy space in the stomach, discouraging you from eating too rapidly. Also be careful about eating high salt foods such as lox, since you will still be a little dehydrated and will need to drink a lot of fluids to avoid waking up extremely thirsty in the early morning hours.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the Jewish Advocate (Boston, USA) in 1989. Copyright © 1989 – 2010 Michael M. Segal, MD, PhD. This document may be reproduced freely on a non-profit basis, including electronically, through 2010 as long as the source at www.segal.org/kippur/ is indicated and this copyright notice is included.
May it be a meaningful fast that brings about the redemption.
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I occasionally have an opportunity to teach Torah classes to women in my local community. It is one of the many reasons I am so grateful to live where I do. Had I remained the tiny fish in the huge pond that is Jerusalem, I doubt that I would ever have had a chance to grow into a teacher, or to learn that it was one of my favorite things to do.
I have been asked often to post a write up of my shiurim on this blog. Most of the time I don’t prepare early enough or have time to post soon enough, and the material is then for a holiday that has come and gone by the time I get to it.
However, last Shabbat I taught a class on the Nine Days & Tisha B’av, so thought I would put down some of the discussion while we are still in this solemn period. Especially since it was an analogy to parenting that struck me so deeply while preparing the shiur, and that has been the sharpest part of my focus this year. So this is a recap of some of what we discussed:
During “The Three Weeks” and then “The Nine Days” and finally on Tisha B’av we mark the destruction of the Holy Temple. I asked the women gathered if we are “mourning” or “yearning.” Although the word mourning is often used, we are on the one hand mourning the loss of something we never experienced first-hand. And, usually when we mourn something it is a process of letting go because that thing (or person) is gone to us forever. Here, we mourn the Beit Hamikdash that was, but we also hope for its return. So we do mourn our loss, but we also yearn for it. We yearn for a new Beit Hamikdash and Moshiach’s arrival.
The word that we use for yearning is “tshukah” in Hebrew, and it is a concept that I would like to return to later. But this is the other feeling we invoke during this period, because we not only mourn what we have lost, but we long–in fact strive–to get it back.
The next question I asked is: Why are we fasting?
Fasting is not a very popular means of connecting to Hashem for most people I know. In fact, for some of us it is a distraction from whatever process we feel we should be going through, since we feel little more than hunger. Lastly, fasting is certainly not something we associate with mourning! The restrictions during the Three Weeks and the Nine Days are those associated with mourning, but the prohibitions of Tisha B’av are more akin to Yom Kippur.
I came to learn that the period leading up to Tisha B’av is constructed in such a way as to evoke a feeling of loss, to help concentrate on mourning what we no longer have. This is done so that we will be stirred on Tisha B’av to do teshuva* – do improve and repair ourselves, our community, and our world so that we can have a day of celebration on the 9th of Av, as the Gemara explains, rather than a day of mourning. The sadness of the day comes from our feeling that we are “still not there;” it is not a sign of mourning. It is intended to be our sincere demonstration of teshuva; of “tshukah” to Hashem so that it will be the last sad Tisha B’av.
The word tshukah as explained by Rabbi Fohrman in The Beast that Crouches at the Door, is a yearning that comes not from a needy deficit, but an overflow of abundance. It is not the feeling a newborn has when it needs to nurse… it is the feeling the nursing mother has when she needs to provide. It is our overflow of love for Hashem and our desire to serve him that has nowhere to go until we once again have a Beit Hamikdash in which to channel our love and desire to cleave to G-d in the proper way.
My final question was: Why do we need to mourn for Three Weeks and to have a day of sadness and teshuva? Surely we demonstrate to G-d in our prayers and rituals every day that we miss the Holy Temple and that we yearn for its return? The commemoration is deeper than the historical anniversary of so many tragedies for the Jewish People.
Rabbi Label Lam answers this question so beautifully in his wonderful piece on Tisha B’Av at Torah.org:
“On the 9th of Av we are like little children sent away from the table. The child sent to his room can artfully distract himself. His parents wait for the breaking point. He might then even be willing to admit his faults like fighting with his siblings etc. That time never comes. Why? He’s found some candies, there’s a cell phone, a computer and a treasure of other goodies. He’s forgotten that he’s being punished.
The father realizing that the child is too busily engaged in his “things” forbids him for a time to play with these toys and those. Suddenly, he feels alone and isolated from the family. Tears begin to stream. He cries out longingly to his father and is invited to the table again with a pleasant mixture of joy and humility.” (click here to read the whole article. )
We are like G-d’s punished children all year. We are in exile every minute of every day. We do not have our Holy Temple, and we are banished from the closeness with Hashem that we enjoyed when it stood. We are so distracted by our comfort and blessing that we forget that we have been punished. Our computers and cell phones, wonderful kehillot and yeshivot, our beautiful built-up modern Israel… all allow us to forget. We don’t always know what we are missing, and we don’t know what it feels like to have such an intimate relationship with our Creator. It is sometimes easy to forget that we can and will have more; but Hashem gave us intimate interpersonal relationships precisely so that we can taste that closeness and yearn for it with him.
The Three Weeks are our reminder that we have been sent away, that we can be so much closer to the Divine… that we once were, and that it is truly up to us to be so again. Done right, the limitations imposed during the Three Weeks and Nine Days bring us to this difficult combination of mourning our closeness to our Father that we lost and our yearning to be back in his good graces. The power of mourning and yearning together ideally mobilizes our true and deep teshuvah on Tisha B’av; a teshuva marked by fasting and focus.
I bless you all with a meaningful remainder of the Nine Days, and a meaningful fast. May our communal Teshuva bring Moshiach bimheira yameinu.
*teshuva = repair, return, improvement, repentance.. or as Aish.com puts it “dry cleaning for your soul”
I welcome your comments and thoughts, and am happy to suggest the following articles (far wiser than mine) at Torah.org and Naaleh.com:
Why Do We Fast? by Rabbi Prero
Mourning on the 9th of Av, the Reasons, by Rabbi Jacob Mendelson
What Are We Missing on Tisha B’Av by Rabbi Lam
Why Destroy Our Sanctuary? by Rebbetzin Tzippora Heller
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Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by the formidable Jack.
I have not commented on every entry, but I have read (and enjoyed them all.) Especially when it comes to Judaism and Torah, it isn’t always a good idea to weigh in. If yours did not receive my two cents, please forgive me – maybe you will consider yourselves lucky! Looking back, there seem to be two common threads this week; oppression / dislike of Jews around the world (especially in the media) and “can’t we all just get along”, both very appropriate for the Nine Days.
Thank you, fellow Jewish bloggers, for becoming an important community for me. I hope this first shot at the carnival aptly conveys my gratitude:
Paul Gable presents Israel Matters posted at Brushfires of Freedom. It may be a hard pill to swallow for some, but is a critical call to action for us all.
Mrs. S presents Visiting day FAQ posted at Our Shiputzim: A Work In Progress, saying, “Thanks for doing this!” - I am sure lots of us echo her thanks.
Mordechai Torczyner presents Talking to children about depression posted at The Rebbetzin’s Husband. The debate seems to still be open as to what age is appropriate, and I look forward to following the comments as they develop.
Chabad presents The eighth note! posted at lubavitch.com Chabad-Lubavitch news site. As a musician, I would just love to learn more about who “they” is that says there will be an eighth note, and where they say it! Please let us know.
Allison Josephs presents Mi Casa Es Su Casa posted at Jew in the City… a helpful reminder of how to give… and receive.
Yisrael Medad presents Did He Deserve the Medal? posted at My Right Word, saying, “Perhaps this British soldier didn’t deserve a medal?”. I’m no Yisrael Medad, but I think he deserves the medal. Maybe it is the historians who need to get sacked.
Yisrael Medad presents Write to J Street posted at My Right Word, saying, “You don’t really like J Street, do You?”, in which he exposes how US enforcement of NGO rules seems frighteningly inconsistent. What a surprise.
Yisrael Medad presents Hillary Clinton’s Humor posted at My Right Word, saying, “Hillary feels so Jewish, becoming the mother-in-law of one of the tribe, that she feels she can be humorous about antisemitism”. Not very funny, indeed.
and….Yisrael Medad presents JPost.com | BlogCentral | Green-Lined | A grand newspaper or a political rag sheet? posted at Green-Lined, saying, “At his Jerusalem Post blog, Yisrael Medad takes on the New York Times”. He can accept that glaringly obvious anti-Yesha stance of the paper. Here he takes issue with the lack of journalism standards. For me, just another reason to never read the NYT.
Susan Howe presents 12 Truly Bizarre Funeral Customs from Around the World posted at The Budget Life Blog, saying, “Various funeral and burial customs surrounding the dead have grown up in various places around the world. Some of them are really interesting to know that they still exist as technology advances.” This is fascinating and researched glimpse at traditions I have never seen before. Some are downright amusing. Others are downright disgusting.
Robert Avrech presents The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Proust, Jews, and Jewish Inverts at Seraphic Secret.
Heshy presents Yo momma is so frum posted at Frum Satire. Now, now, I resemble that remark…..
Lisa presents The Morality of Flattery and Christian Zionists posted at Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything). I am wondering if it is such an accepted idea that Christianity is idolatry? Maybe I am simply too ignorant on this front. Important point, whether you agree or not.
Rachel Barenblat presents 6 tastes of Ruach ha-Aretz posted at Velveteen Rabbi. These are little glimpses into what sound like an intense retreat.
Risa presents Yearning posted at Shiloh Musings. Beautiful.
Ben-Yehudah presents Response To Hecht’s “Anti Semitism USA, Circa 2010” posted at Esser Agaroth.
David Levy presents Tisha B’Av by Candlelight posted at Jewish Boston, saying, “Dan Brosgol remembers observing Tisha B’Av at Camp Ramah.” Me too! Me too! I fondly remember Tisha B’Av by Candlelight at Ramah as well… and I have more than a decade on Dan Brosgol.
Ben-Yehudah presents Eating Shuwarmah During The “Nine Days” Oy! Geeeeevaaaaald!!! posted at Esser Agaroth. Tasty story. Very Israeli. Do you agree with Minnesota Mamaleh‘s “to each his own”?
Mirjam Weiss presents A Fishy Story in Two Parts posted at Miriyummy, saying, “Girl vs fish, fish wins, and a cross cultural dinner.” Great story, great recipe, and apparently, a great future son-in-law.
rickismom presents Beneath the Wings (a Poem) posted at Beneath the Wings. Beautiful poem. Inspiring.
Home Shuling presents Something more, or just different? Explaining Orthodox Judaism to my children. – Homeshuling posted at Home-shuling. Can I comment on a blog post… about me? It isn’t really about me, it is about the ever-impressive author, but since I am mentioned I think you will have to all just read it and judge for yourself.
shorty presents What have i done lately? posted at Shorty’s Adventure. Sad, struggling, honest. I hope that when the Nine Days end you feel your spirit lifted and new optimism… oh, and freeze challahs so they don’t go to waste.
Lady-Light presents Received a Gift: an Unexpected Visit to Family!, Monday Activities (Second verse, same as the first), and Tuesday Activities…Last, Bittersweet… posted at Tikkun Olam. I put these together since they chronicle the same experience. A beautiful one at that.
Elise/ Independent Patriot presents EMERGENCY CALL NOW: NO RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION IN THE IEP posted at Raising Asperger’s Kids, saying, “Because it is against basic jewish ethics to abuse the most vulnerable in society plese list this blog so ppl will call and help stop this addition to the bill. It takes away children’s rights and teh rights of parents to stop the abuse.” This is a disturbing policy. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We hope you will keep your readers posted on this bill.
Minnesota Mameleh presents Summer Days Summer Nights posted at TC Jewfolk. I can’t say I agree completely with the “everyone does what works for them” approach. Maybe I will have the honor of a healthy cyber -dialogue on the matter with the amazing Mamaleh herself one day. But her post is sticky, gooey sweet… and yummy.
Ben-Yehudah presents Jewish Criticism Of Israel posted at Esser Agaroth, saying, “From Yo’el Meltzer, posting at Esser Agaroth.” How and when can US Jews criticize Israel? This is an interesting principle from which to operate.
Risa presents Remember Gush Katif posted at Isramom. Thank you for making me cry, even though you are right, the tears aren’t enough.
I haven’t written any comments next to the entries in this section. I read and enjoyed them all, and learned. I promise. You should too.
Batya presents Careful With Words, Promises, Pledges, Oaths etc posted at Shiloh Musings.
pc presents The Goel hadam today posted at Torah Down Under, saying, “Can the goel hadam kill an accidental murderer today”.
Josh Waxman presents Rav Yaakov Emden’s Eight-Legged Camel posted at parshablog. Distortion? Myth? Interesting. Four legs are enough for me, thanks.
Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver presents Understanding the two sides within posted at A Chassidishe farbrengen. I hope the way I understand this is correct. I have always thought that true kedushah comes from the integration of these two sides, not just the struggle, or the primacy of one.
Joel Katz presents Religion and State in Israel – July 12, 2010 (Section 1) and Religion and State in Israel – July 12, 2010 (Section 2) posted at Religion and State in Israel.
Eric presents Lies In Iran’s Media Exposed posted at The Israel Situation, saying, “Iran’s newspaper wrote a horrible, incorrect article about UNIFIL and the Lebanon War in 2006. This is a line by line look at the facts.”
Eric also presents My Israel Support posted at The Israel Situation, saying, “A look at what I am doing to support Israel at home and ideas for you to do the same.” I can’t look at the mainstream media anymore, never mind analyze its inaccuracies and biased coverage against Israel. Good luck with the new assignments!
Batya presents Winner Takes All, Losers Be Damned posted at Shiloh Musings. An insightful observation; I look forward to reading your vision of how we can change things for the better.
Ilana-Davita presents her Weekly Interview: Ruti posted at Ilana-Davita. Thank you for the intro to Ki Yachol Nuchal! I am looking forward to reading more… from both of you.
Anonymous presents Eleven days posted at Door number three, please., saying, “Uberimma and family are making aliya at the end of July. Be part of their welcoming committee at Ben Gurion, especially if you are a soldier!” Good luck on your upcoming aliyah! Yashar Koach, titchadshu, and b’hatzlacha…. I am not sure what I like better, the post, or the list of 100 things on the side.
Harry presents presents This is the story of Johnny Rotten – In Israel at Israelity.
Harry also presents T + L love J Town at Israelity.
.. and Harry presents Tourists flocking to Israel at Israelity. Nice to hear (and end this with) some good news. I hope he is right that it’s the best year ever for Israeli tourism. Hope we can make it the best year ever for aliyah too.
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of haveil havalim using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
I hope that this is a meaningful Tisha B’av for you.
L’Shana haba b’Yerushalayim habnuya.
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Tisha B’av is always a personally challenging time for me. When we first moved back to the United States ten years ago, I cried so much on Tisha B’av. I felt like my own Yerushalayim had been ripped away from me. I felt like I knew better than anyone alive what it meant to really yearn for Jerusalem.
The problem is, it is a personal longing. I missed my home, I missed my life.
The mourning of Tisha B’av is of something much greater, and more religious. I have struggled with and worked at internalizing that Tisha B’av is a time for real yearning for the Beit Hamikdash, our holiest Temple. Our unity as a people, our connection to G-d, and our ability to express that through the many mitzvot we cannot currently perform. We are even mourning our lack of understanding what we are truly missing. Generations past rent their clothes and cried out because the stories and memories of the beautiful Temple in all of its glory were still fresh enough to hurt and burn their hearts. We have even lost that.
I have grown at crying over these national losses, and not just how much I miss Shabbat meals at Ruthie’s or going to a class with Debbie.
This week, we had guests stay with us for Shabbat. A friend who feels like family was in from Eli (Israel) with his young son. He didn’t do anything or say anything earth shattering. Our conversations were for the most part the picking up where we left off over a year ago, as always seems to happen with good friends that you don’t see often but you know will always be friends. Just another one of our friends in from Israel for a friendly visit before returning to Israel.
I made aliyah in 1995 and lived in Israel for six years. While I only have two more years to count down until I finally get to return, I have now been “back” in the US for a full decade. One might argue that having spent 15.8% of my life in Israel hardly makes me an Israeli.
I moved to Israel straight after college (even skipping graduation) in 1995. I spent a year there from 1990-91, and never really left emotionally. Although I returned to North America to get a college degree, I was already friends with Israelis, learning and speaking Hebrew, returning to Israel each summer, and planning my aliyah. I have always felt that my childhood development was in the US, but my adulthood development was in Israel. My first apartment, job, car and many other adult experiences were all in Israel. The type of community I wanted to live in, and the kind of environment I wanted in which to grow into the person I wanted to be, were all in Israel.
When I moved there, it was for all of the reasons others have presented, historical, cultural, religious, philosophical, etc., but mostly because I felt at home. Lots of us olim seem to say that, don’t we?. I have been back in the US for so long now, and at the beginning I worried a great deal that I would simply start to feel more at home here.
That has never happened.
This is what brings me back to our Shabbat guest.
It just felt so strikingly familiar to have him around. He (and his wife) think like us, talk like us, daven like us, parent like us… are people from “our planet”. Having him around just reminded me of how much we are not with people like us and are never truly at home while here.
We live in an amazing community with wonderful people. I will need to post another blog about what a unique and special place this is for one’s growth as a Jew.
Still, this feeling that I am swimming upstream every single day doesn’t abate, and is what makes me miss Israel the most. There is something so wonderful about overcoming differences, meeting other kinds of people, broadening one’s horizons… but there is also something so wonderful about just going home.
I don’t think that most Israelis would perceive me to be very Israeli, or even necessarily from “their planet”. American olim, however, are definitely our own category, and within that group is always where I feel most at home.
It was wonderful to have a Shabbat guest, and to see an old friend. But being so close to Tisha B’av, I find myself fighting the temptation to feel consumed by yearning of the homesickness variety. I have to channel that longing and sadness and use it to tap into the true focus of the day.
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