Tisha B’Av comes this year on July 29-30. Like all Jewish holidays, it lasts from sundown to sundown. Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av) is our catch-all mourning holiday, a 24 (or 25) hour fast. The destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, the crushing of the Bar Kokhba rebellion in 135 c.e. and the Expulsion from Spain in 1492 are assigned to this date.
It’s a good thing to shove all the sadness into one day – there’s so much of it, so many instances, that if we mourned each occasion of anguish in our history, we’d fast more days than we’d eat.
But let’s also be aware, as we mourn the destruction of the independent Hebrew/Jewish countries of Israel and Judah in ancient times, that the diaspora resulting from those destructions created cultural and ethical treasures that never would have existed had we continued to be a people led by a hereditary ruling group, a people who engaged in animal sacrifice. Our moral advances, scholarship, and the richness and diversity of worldwide Jewish culture, are the silver lining in the dark cloud of exile.
This is not at all to say that every tragedy or disaster has unforeseen happy consequences. Some clouds have no silver linings at all. But, as in the past, we can certainly try to create new worlds from the old. A new Jewish life in the Diaspora, a new American life post-pandemic. An America with a better morality of care for others, a richer culture of our own and respect for the cultures of others, is only possible through our own endeavors. Buy some silver paint and get to work!