Today has been the tenth of Av–yesterday was Shabbat and no one fasts. Nonetheless, the energy resembles “the real deal”, Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, and those who fast, refrain from showers and leather shoes, et al., are engaged that way today.
For a variety of reasons, I haven’t fasted in years (nor can I on Yom Kippur), and, every year, I begin the day out-of-phase with most other mitzva-keeping Jews. This time around, however, I’m finding deep meaning in the very fact that I am out-of-phase, because isn’t that what this day is really about?
Of course we all mourn the Holy Temple, even if none of us could possibly have any realistic idea of what it was, how life as a Jew felt then, or what it might mean in the future, when, with God’s help, it is restored. But, in all honesty, it’s very difficult to mourn real estate and building materials, and, perhaps, even more difficult to mourn rituals we barely know anything about.
What we do miss, and I think we all, to one degree or another, miss, is the transcendant unity of a center towards which we all turned. At least for me, when I try to take a few steps beyond “feeling bad”, I realize that what I’m really experiencing is radical alienation–I think we all do.
Each of us, necessarily, experiences God, whether in Torah and Mitzvot or in Nature or in Relationship, uniquely. The only thing that really unites us, which has the power to allow us to connect with a radically different other, is The Creator,Who created each of us incomplete.
An integral part of Creation, a central clearing house, as it were, for all of humanity’s spiritual essence, a Beit Tefilla L’chol HaAmim, a House of Prayer for every nation. In it’s absence, we can, at best, join our souls, our spiritual essences (nefesh/ruach/neshama) in superficial ways since, without that great clearing house which gives us the keys to understand-by-experiencing the subtle soul-material exchanges, it’s difficult to move beyond the mere physical (perhaps an explanation of the dominance of pornography, available universally and dominating the media) which is, by definition, superficial (“beauty is only skin-deep”).
So, of course, if we take a day like today, a day of national mourning, of focusing on just that very unifying structure that enables us to truly bond with others, if we allow ourselves to feel at all, foremost in our feelings is radical alienation.
We Torah Professionals (i.e. rabbis and teachers) don’t often talk about Unity and Oneness. In the observant world, at least, we get distracted by the details of every ritual action, Mitzva, to the degree that we forget we’re embarking on an action that really isn’t, or isn’t limited, to this physical world. So few of us are even slightly aware, have ever been taught, that when we perform mitzvot, when we pray, alone or together in groups, we’re not trying to bribe God into filling our wishlist. Rather, we’re operating on levels we’re not even aware of, let alone able to understand, to unite all the disparate energies of Creation into their correct, perfect formation, which is really what Tikkun Olam really means (i.e. according to God’s plan, not our own).
But, the raw truth is that without the Grand Unifying Context, in traditional Kaballistic langue, Shechina, the Divine In-Dwelling, which is best sustained at the Beit HaMikdash, we’re, at best, spinning our wheels, merely practicing, unable to truly join together, hence profoundly alienated from our true selves, our true potentials.
And this is what we mourn.
And what we hope we can fix by this time next year, so as never to have to mourn this way again.
Amen, Ken Yehi Ratzon.