Today is Tisha b’Av, a fast day in the Jewish calendar in which we remember the destructions of holiness in the world, symbolized by the destructions of the Temples in Jerusalem, but extending to all the ways in which we turn away from holiness and cause suffering.
This morning I was reading the book for Tisha b’Av services which contains prayers and special readings for this day. The main reading is the book of Lamentations attributed to Jeremiah. (My piano trio, Aecha (Lamentations) is based on the traditional melodies for reading this book.) Included in the back page of the collection of readings and prayers is a quote from the prophet Isaiah that struck me as important to share:
“In that day shall Israel be third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth; For the Lord will bless them saying ‘Blessed be Egypt My people, and Syria the work of My hand, and israel Mine inheritance.’ ” (Isaiah 19:24-25)
I looked up ch. 19 of Isaiah, and not surprisingly, it was full of some harsh prophecies before getting to this vision. But at least there is a vision from long ago that we will get to a point of harmony and shared blessing. Isaiah was good at describing visions like that.
But that quote was at the end of the readings. Today, for a few more hours, we can feel the sadness of a world in pain. Today we don’t have to get busy fixing it. We also don’t have to turn away from things too difficult or inconvenient to face. We can live with the sorrow. We don’t eat, we don’t bathe or listen to music. We are just present with the broken-ness of our world. We feel compassion. We let our hearts break.