Today is the 1st of the Jewish month of Av. It begins a period of time known as “The Nine Days.” These days lead us to the 9th of Av, when the Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed; the first by Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar, the second by Rome’s Titus.
|Arch of Titus, Rome|
The Code of Jewish Law dictates that we observe various signs of mourning during these days, akin to the way a mourner marks the death of a close relative. What is the meaning behind these abstentions?
When one spouse betrays the other, the fabric of their relationship is torn. Some couples will respond by beginning the wrenching task of seeing what went wrong so they can attend to the damage, while others will attempt to avoid the pain of what has occurred, turning away from it and living around it.
The tenor of the years that follow will depend on their choices. If the rent is mended by careful and attentive re-weaving, the relationship will survive. Even more, the formerly weak spot will be stronger from its reinforcement. Looking back they will see that this moment was a turning point when they transformed potential tragedy to joy.
But if they ignore the tear, the few broken threads will multiply, the gap will widen, and with every reminder of the betrayal, they will be overwhelmed by fresh pain and isolation.
Judaism does not dwell on sorrow, nor does it elevate suffering into a holy experience. But as we approach that day when the fabric of our relationship with G-d was torn asunder, we must ask, are we still circling the tear? So long as we have not rebuilt the Temple, our relationship with G-d is not completely healed.
Our mourning during these days is purposeful and is not meant to remain despondent and despairing. Feeling pain is a cue that something is wrong. Once we’ve determined the dysfunction, our focus should be directed toward reweaving the torn threads into whole cloth, restoring health to our relationship with G-d.