To me there is something that seems so deeply unfair about observing Tisha B'Av, the saddest date in the Jewish calendar, during the summertime. I don't know about you, but I feel compelled to have a good time during the summer. I know a lot of other people who subscribe to that philosophy. Many of us try to cram in as much "fun" and lengthy days-nights of going out and enjoying life, partly to store up the feelings and feed off them during the rest of the year, which tends to be much more serious.

Yet this year I chanted aloud part of Eichah, the book of Lamentations, for my synagogue. I did not really opt for it in the way of volunteering, cheerfully putting myself out for participating in the service. I was asked by the hazzan at my synagogue, to prepare and read part for the Erev Tisha B'Av service. I really did not want to but he asked. and he asked politely (as he always does). So I agreed, and with the aid of sound files that he prepared for me, I practiced Chapter Two for several weeks.

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The mournful tune and the morose words got to me. They clashed with the live music shows that I attended at various times this summer. They competed for my attention with new songs that I heard on the radio. They were the sad anchor to the boat of my hoped-for fun summer. (Is that a clumsy metaphor? Well, that is Tisha B'Av for you.)


Tisha B'Av is not the fun fun fun of anyone's summer. But I went through with this, learning the part and reflecting on Lamentations and I decided that this event, really a process, was another step in my maturation, in my "growing up," my adulthood. There are many steps we take, typically, in "growing up." We graduate school. We get jobs and grow into careers. We pair off and marry and have children. We realize we cannot run as quickly as we could years ago. We hear our knees click or pop at times. And we say, yep, let's learn Lamentations and participate in the Tisha B'Av service. Let's forego a certain amount of summertime pleasure and immerse ourselves in a painful reflection of our people's duration on earth.

Perhaps the oppressive heat and humidity (and humility) of recent weeks added to the sensation of carrying out 9th of Av duties. Perhaps the insanely, unbelievably nasty tone of American politics this summer added a dimension of pain to Tisha B'Av this year. (It did for me; how about you?) Perhaps the news about the Zika virus, and mean-spirited athletes snubbing Israeli participants in this year's Rio summer Olympics, and violence at home and abroad added more woe to the scales.

Now Tisha B'Av has come and gone. I do think that I derived some more insight into this holiday this year in particular, because I learned Chapter Two of Lamentations. It did not grant me super--human powers of any type, but it did give me an appreciate for how to deal with communal pain. And for most of us, this is a life lesson worth shouldering.

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