August 7, 2018

Tisha B’Av and the Individual

This Motzei Shabbat/Sunday is Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish year. On Tisha B’Av we mourn the destruction of both Temples along with many other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, and one of the ways we express our mourning is through the recitation of kinot (elegies).
While many of the kinot refer to Jerusalem or the Temple, one of these, called ‘V’Et Navi Chatati’, tells the tragic story of the son and daughter of the last Kohen Gadol of the second Beit Hamikdash, Rabbi Yishmael.
After their father was murdered, both son and daughter were taken captive by different Roman slave owners, and because they were attractive, the two slave owners decided to marry them to each other with the expectation that the union would produce beautiful and talented children who could then fetch a high price on the slave market. When son and daughter realised that they would be forced to marry each other, they were distraught, and as they sat holding each other while weeping, they died.
According to Rav Soloveitchik, while Tisha B’Av remembers the many terrible events experienced by the Jewish people, this kina (elegy) is included in the Tisha B’Av service to remind us that even in the midst of a national calamity we must never forget the intrinsic worth, and the profound pain, of each individual.
A similar message was recently shared by former Chief Rabbi Lau. He explains that when he first read the Diary of Anne Frank, he found it very troubling. It did not depict the horrors of the Shoah and it did not describe the torture and the killing. But when he got older he understood why this was such an important book. It is because the book did not speak about millions. It was one personal story, and he could identify with a personal story.
This Tisha B’Av let’s remember the Churban of people as well as the Churban of the Temple. Let’s focus our attention on a personal story and weep for the pain they experienced. And let’s also use Tisha B’Av to drive each of use forward to use our lives to the fullest.

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