Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Fast Day at Camp

I'm back in the States, working on the staff at Union for Reform Judaism's Camp Kalsman. This is a good thing: if one can't be in Jerusalem, then, Jewishly-speaking, camp is the next best thing. We even have the Jerusalem heat with us here in northern Washington, which is an unusual thing.

But the heat is appropriate today, for it is Tisha B'Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. On this date, the generation that left Egypt was condemned to wander forty years in the wilderness, the first and second Temples were destroyed by fire, the Bar Kochba rebellion failed, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was defeated.

Tisha B'Av is problematic for liberal Jews, because the basic understanding of its theology is that all of these catastrophes were, in fact, divine punishment for our sins. Those of us who believe that history does not function in such a manner must find new ways to interpret and observe the day. Indeed, many contemporary sages have suggested that in light of the fact that Jerusalem is restored and thriving, and most of us do not wish to actually rebuild the Temple and begin offering sacrifices again, we should fast for only half the day. There is some traditional precedent for this, too, as some of our sources argue that the messiah will be born on Tisha B'Av, thereby providing a strand of joy amidst the sorrow.

Still, I'm fasting for the whole day here at camp, mostly in solidarity with the wider Jewish community.

Tonight I'll be going on a camp out with the fifth grade girls, which will be a great way to end this somber day. Indeed, Tisha B'Av is the end of three weeks of solemnity, which began with the 17th of Tammuz. I marked that date in Jerusalem, studying at Hartman. Now, back in America, I am getting ready to move from mourning to comfort, which is the theme of the next seven weeks, which take us from Tisha B'Av to the renewal of Rosh Hashanah.

So I am wishing an easy fast to all who are observing the day, and comfort and renewal in the days and weeks to come.

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