Thursday, August 03, 2006

our own 9/11

Its Tisha bav afternoon and I’m sitting here at my computer reading about this tragic day, its history and its meaning and I’m wondering.. why don’t I feel it the way I should?
I don’t think this post will get read by many, most of you wont be at your computer today, and by the time you log on, after the fast, you wont want to read about tisha bav..
So I’m writing this for myself, to make sense of this day, to help clear my mind and understand what I should be feeling.

It’s midday and I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing. I ate an egg dipped in ashes last night, I sat on the floor, I’m not wearing freshly cleaned clothes, I’m not showered, I’m not eating or drinking, I’m not listening to music, I’m not entertaining myself with frivolous activities.. I’m spending this long day, thinking and reading.. and yet I don’t feel the sadness I should.

I read about the destruction of the temples, I think of the massacres of the time, I think of the Spanish inquisition which was also started today, I think of the Holocaust, I think of all kinds of tragedies that have befallen my people, and it makes me sad.. but I don’t feel ... Tisha Bav.
What am I looking for? What am I trying to feel?

I’ve been thinking that maybe I just don’t understand what the loss of the beit hamikdash is because I don’t understand what having it was like. It can’t be the beauty of it, no one would spend 2000 years crying over stones and gold and silver, it must be the deeper reality of its existence.

One way of empathizing is to try and find a similar situation that you've experienced that helps you understand the feeling and then to project that onto another situation so it can be internalized. So, I tried that, and I thought of 9/11 - the destruction of 2 massive buildings that tragically altered the face of our reality.

Sounds comparable.. kind of..

So I started thinking.. true thousands of people died on September 11th, true the 2 world trade center towers were savagely demolished..
But… millions of people have been massacred across the globe, countless edifices have been destroyed, what is it about the thought of 9/11 that gives me goose bumps, that sends a tremor of fear up my spine?

When we think of 9/11, when we mourn that fateful day, few of us are thinking of the loss of the two buildings. Aside from those who have lost close ones, most of us don’t even think of the loss of life. In fact when 9/11 comes up, most of us react with a feeling, not a thought. We feel the effects of its loss, we feel the aftershocks. And the truth is, we feel them every day since then. 9/11 has completely distorted our understanding of what life is supposed to be like.

I cant believe that it’s only a few years ago that we didn’t have security checks in the airports, that we didn’t have a Homeland Security Advisory System, where terrorist attacks were not expected occurrences, where the news of American and Canadian soldiers dying in current battles was appalling. I cant believe that its only a few years ago that fundamentalist Islam was a distant threat that none of us seriously considered and that we lived our lives without the constant menace of terror attacks. Personally, I know that every time I sit on a subway train in New York, for a split second, I wonder if there isn’t a terrorist riding along with me and for a fleeting moment i feel a stab of fear, of insecurity. I know that every single time I’ve been in a tunnel or a bridge I’ve considered the option that the van next to me may be carrying explosives. I know that I’ve worried about wearing my magen david in my university, I’ve worried about expressing my opinions, I’ve worried about possible travel destinations, I’ve worried about suspicious individuals I come across, I’ve worried about a war, I’ve worried about chaos and destruction.

Recommended Activities
All Americans should continue to be vigilant, take notice of their surroundings, and report suspicions items or activities to local authoritiesimmediately.

Everybody should establish an emergency preparedness kit as well as a communications plan for themselves and their family, and stay informed about what to do during an emergency situation.”

None of these thoughts were part of my thinking before 9/11.

So when I think of September 11th, the thoughts that come to my mind are most often related to the effects of that attack. I feel the fear and the insecurity, the disconnection from the more peaceful reality I once lived.

And that got me to thinking about our own 9th day of the 11th month, the day our two temples were destroyed. Maybe I’m not feeling it because I’m trying to mourn a physical loss which is so far from my reality that I cant appreciate it, instead of mourning the effects of it which I currently experience.

True, not having a bet himkdash means I cant experience the beauty of it, I cant pray there, I cant see or hear the kohanim.. but that’s not what hurts the most. With the loss of the temple, came the distancing of G-d, and that’s where the real tragedy is.

Having lost the temples has led to our disconnecting from Truth and Reality. The illusion of materialism blinds us - we don’t have the temple anymore where the joining of the physical and the material was experienced daily. We’ve lost the clarity; we no longer have prophets who can guide us. On Shavuot we celebrated our marriage to G-d, and on Tisha bav we’ve been repudiated by our Beloved, forsaken and left alone. We have been left to fend for ourselves, broken and scattered.

Where has this disconnection and lack of clarity led us to? It has led us to wars, to abuse, to cruelty. No man would cheat on his wife, no parent would strike his child, no teenager would commit suicide, no single mom would go to bed crying night after night.. if we had the clarity and the tangible knowledge that G-d was with us. No holocaust could have happened, no Cossacks, no inquisitors, no hizbulla, no katuyshas could exist if G-d was allowed a real presence in our midst. No loneliness, no fear, no confusion would plague our minds and our souls if we could connect to G-d in a sincere way. Like a child comforted by his mother when she hugs him, we'd have a Home to go to and be reassured and comforted.

When we had a temple, we had a place to witness the Shechina in a tangible way. We had a place to ask for forgiveness, and be forgiven, we witnessed miracles, we had a home with our Beloved. How many times do you hear people say "If G-d spoke to me, if I witnessed a miracle, I’d believe?" How many times have you thought, "please Hashem, just give me a sign?" How many times have I felt alone, overwhelmed, scared, desperate and begged Hashem to take care of me?
We could have had that, but we lost it.

How many of us find ourselves straying from the path we want to be on, how often do we get weak and give in to temptation, how many times do we feel so removed and distant from G-d that we decide we have take matters into our own hands. How much of that distance has translated itself into fear, into bitterness, and eventually to harming ourselves and others.

I can’t cry for the temple because I barely understand what it was. I can barely cry for the Holocaust because I have been so desensitized to it. But, I can cry for all the pain and suffering I witness around me. I can cry for the soldiers, I can cry for their moms. I can cry for those who are so far from a meaningful existence, and for those searching and being led astray by imposters. I can cry for those of us who have been deceived, lied to, abused by our leaders. I can cry for the selfishness, the hate, the malice we endure on a daily basis. I can cry for all of the effects of this original destruction, for the painful and chaotic existence we now live.

Tisha bav will be over in a few hours, I’ll eat, I’ll play some music, I’ll feel the anxiety lift off and and I’m afraid I’ll resume my life just as it was a few weeks ago.

But that will simply lead me back here, a year from now, G-d forbid.

I cant cry for the loss of the temple all year long. I don’t have it in me. But, unfortunately, I will keep crying for the effects of it because the impact is ongoing. The suffering will continue, long after the fast, long after the commemoration, long after the mandatory tears. The effects of this loss, close to 2000 years old, will keep me suffering every day, and if I cant mourn over the temple, I hope that I can at least carry with me the clarity to understand that the reason I suffer, the reason there is suffering around me, is a direct result of this day, a direct result of being expelled from home, and far away from my G-d.

14 Comments:

At Thursday, August 03, 2006 9:07:00 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Beautiful post, nice comparing it to 9/11. Very smart idea to compare the day to s/t that has meaning to you and can help you feel the day.

 
At Thursday, August 03, 2006 9:25:00 PM, Blogger jim said...

Yes, beautifully done, but the last thing you need are complements to you personally for it.

Yes, the act of 9/ll was against democracy and capitalism, but it was at root, against the Jew, it was a substitute for the Temple, symbolically speaking.

Israel, the People, this is the Temple, all of you are the Cohenim, you are walking amongst yourselves and you are psychologically doing the duties of the Temple You are all of it, the Whole Psychology of G-d and HaSHem, You are the Fruit of the Torah, the Handbook of the Psychology of G-d.

I think the reason you don't 'feel' it 'sadly' is due to your inherent knowledge of the change that is coming, the Hope that the Jew has in G-d and His People, You. That you are part of the restoration, that you know this 'unconsciously', how can you be sad in the face of surety?

I am not Jewish, but I love the Jewishness of you all, and I love HaSHem and G-d and Torah. Even I have that Hope, the real Gift of the Jew to the World is the Gift of G-d to the Jew.

I think you are looking forward with such Hope that you have little space to look back, you know fully what is back there, you have digested it and you are moving on.

Delete this comment if it offends you or anyone, I am not always right in how I say things. I would not be offended if you felt the need and did delete it, don't fear that at all. But your Post is moving and made me want to say these things, so I did.

May G-d bless all of Israel, everywhere.

 
At Thursday, August 03, 2006 9:39:00 PM, Blogger Mimi said...

Admittedly, I didn't read the whole thing.

But what I DID read...was well worth it.

Thank you.

 
At Friday, August 04, 2006 1:01:00 AM, Blogger chaverah said...

mookie! you have made me feel so much more closer to what we should feel on Tsha bav by reading your post. thanks for the comparison and by envisioning 9/11 does make me feel that much more sorrowful for what went on 9 of av. put it directly from the heart! powerful.

 
At Friday, August 04, 2006 1:05:00 AM, Blogger chaverah said...

woah! I never realized before, that 9/11 is the same at our tsha bav which is as well 9/11 , holy cow! i never realzied. scary!

 
At Friday, August 04, 2006 1:36:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

swfm:
thank you, its only one day a year and i feel like its so hard to accomplish what we are meant to..im glad i was able to find a way.. at least for this year!

jim:
of course im not offended and i wont delete, that was a beautiful comment

mimi:
i dont expect many will read through :) its quite long.. then again, it was a long day!!

chaverah:
pretty weird eh? it also surprised me when i realized.. im glad i was able to help

 
At Friday, August 04, 2006 8:46:00 AM, Blogger A Frum Idealist said...

Especially if you realize how much of a fraction 9/11 was of the destruction of not one but both batei mikdash, you have definitely made progress.

 
At Friday, August 04, 2006 9:36:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

frum idealist, of course im not really comparing the two, 9/11 doenst even come close to the tragedy of tisha bav, but what i found interesting was realizing that the real sadness comes the long lasting effects..and the need to focus on that to make it relevant

 
At Friday, August 04, 2006 12:33:00 PM, Blogger Limey2001 said...

As Jerimima told Plato we cry about for the future, not the past

side note, mookie did you on purpose set my word verifacation to be "qooku"

 
At Friday, August 04, 2006 3:01:00 PM, Blogger Limey2001 said...

you know rabbi pinkus mentioned (on a tape) that even though the story is brought by the r'ma it cant be Plato...
He's right!! The churban was in 586 bce
and plato lived 427-347 bce
The Rama uses the hebrew name and i guess people assumed it was plato.... its not...

The point remains......
Rabbi AZ Rubenstein as heard on 107.9fm Lakewood said that if we cry as the Jews cried when the spies came back, cries of "yi'ush", loss of hope, those tears are what causes us to remain in exile and as we know if the temple is not built in ones day its as if it was destroyed.......

 
At Saturday, August 05, 2006 10:17:00 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Mookie...
Great Post...
The Piaczecne Rebbe..in the depoth of the holocaust once said....I have no idea why we're suffering the way we are..At first I thought it must be our sins...but our sins would not warrant this...All I do know is that every single Tzoro that exists in this world is a direct result of the Tzaar Hashechins..Gods pain that the world is so far from perfection...and so when I realize that..my heart fills with incredible joy that God has given us the PRIVELEGE to feel a drop of his pain...
Now..that's big...

 
At Sunday, August 06, 2006 6:18:00 PM, Blogger Cellar Door said...

hmm i never considered it. i tend to gloss over events that dont only afect Jews. very deep.

 
At Tuesday, August 08, 2006 8:09:00 AM, Blogger Dot Co Dot Il said...

An amazing post. Thankyou.

 
At Tuesday, August 08, 2006 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great post, sorry I didn't read it sooner.

 

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