For the past three weeks, in the heat of the summer, my family hasn’t gone swimming. As the rest of the world enjoys summer fun and outings, my family hasn’t gone on a vacation.
The reason? Two thousand years ago the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
For the last three weeks, the Jewish people have been in a state mourning, as we have been every year at this time for the past 2 millennia. The start of the three weeks marks the day that the Roman army broke though the walls of Jerusalem. Three weeks later, on the infamous date of the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, the Temple was destroyed.
Every year on the eve of the 9th of Av, we mark this dark day known as Tisha B’Av. My husband and I bring our children to the synagogue, as does the rest of the community. We leave jewelry and leather shoes behind, and wear simple clothing and shoes. There, we sit on the floor in darkness and with a flashlight in hand, we read the book of Lamentations. From sundown until sunset, the adults fast and focus on introspection.
When my kids were old enough, naturally they asked us why we were doing all of these strange things, and I began to question how I could explain the concept of mourning for the Temple to my children.
Children don’t need to be taught that the world is broken. It’s so obviously broken; people get seriously sick, tragedies happen too often, there are kids who are hungry, families that are falling apart, deadly attacks...the list goes on. We all feel it, and the kids feel it too.
As people of faith, we believe that this is not how the world is supposed to be. We believe that we are on a journey toward a perfected world.
All year round I give my kids tools to deal with the difficulties and challenges they face in life. I teach them resilience, how to focus on the good, to have faith in God, and how we can help make the world a better place. We pray and we move on.
On Tisha B’Av, and the weeks leading up to it, I teach my kids an entirely different lesson. I tell them that the broken world we live in is unacceptable. It is not the way things should be and it is not the way things always will be. We can never get used to way things are. We must never settle for a less-than-perfect world.
During the rest of the year we make do with what we have and with the way things are. But one day a year we take the time to acknowledge all the bad in the world. We pour out our hearts before God and weep over every tragedy and hardship.
Introducing my children to the world of sadness and brokenness is not easy. Teaching them that we lost something precious is heart wrenching. Engraining in their hearts that a part of every Jewish soul was destroyed along with the Temples is difficult.
But there’s a flip side: When I teach my children that this isn’t the way the world is supposed to be, I’m teaching them that, indeed, there is hope; that this world will not always be broken. That the Temple will be rebuilt, and our souls will be complete.
The deepest truths are often found in paradox, and this is no different. What I learn during those three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av is that by teaching my children how our world is broken, I’m really giving them the hope that one day – may it be soon – this world will finally be whole.
With blessings from the Holy Land,