Tisha BeAv Evening

Synagogue was packed tightly – no empty seats and all aisles filed- at least 500 in attendance. It was a big Orthodox synagogue where the head of the OU and head of the CJF attend. This post only reflects the crowded corner in which I sat and the people around me. People seemed to be there to fulfill the formal requirement to hear Eicha, less so to lament.

The synagogue had set out all their kiddie chairs from play groups and nursery and many people brought their own little kiddie chairs. When I last attended Eicha at this synagogue two years ago, there were no kiddie chairs. I am told that they put them out for the first time last year. This second year many people brought their own.

The mood was set by the fall of the stock market and people came in bewailing their investments.

The rabbi of the congregation deserves regard for knowing his congregation. He proclaimed that hurban is tragedy, the holocaust is tragedy, tragedy is death nad massacre, mothers eating their children is tragedy. Downgrading of the US from AAA to AA or a dip in the stock market is not. I thought it was good and appropriate talk by the rabbi. But others near me thought: no! it is a tragedy.

The rabbi said that of course we know that we cannot add or change the liturgy but on Tisha beAv we are lenient. He then recited a kinah for Gilad Shalit before we started.

He also said Ashkenazim need a kinah for the expulsion from Spain. He distributed the kinah from the Isaac Lesser’s Sefardi Kinot dedicated to the expulsion from Spain that will be recited in the day but discussed tonight in a shiur after kinot. I think the origin of this custom was one of the web based kinot from 2005 or 2006.

The Rabbi concluded that special miracle of the Jewish people is that no matter how bad the tragedy or how devastating the destruction they continue to call out and pray to Hashem.

As we waited to start a person across from me- forties, tanned, polo shirt and jeans- kept leaning over to the person to my left and offered the following thoughts in short bobbing outbursts.

Ya, gotta kill him,
Gotta get rid of him.
After today, he needs to be gone.
Obama needs to be killed
Before he runs off to Puerto Rico
I hear he is getting dread locks
And if he gets re-elected it is time to pack our bags because he is socialist and will do whatever he wants.
And you better stay dry and sell everything in the morning.

During Eicha the person to the right of me was on his iphone. He checked his email during the first chapter, his feeds during the second chapter. He put his iphone away for the third chapter, but took it out again for chapters 4 and 5 to recheck his email and feeds.

Many older men left after Eicha before kinot, they said that they are not into kinot and had already filled their requirement.

When kinot started many stood up and remained standing for kinot- it seems they confused kinot with selichot and have forgotten what to do.

Unlike during Eicha, many checked their email during kinot. On the way out, one of those who was on his blackberry throughout kinot said to his friend who started to speak to him: “It is tisha beAV- we should not speak”

Many of the women wore jewelry – expensive necklaces, bracelets and earrings-not usually worn on Tisha beAv. This was even by people who come to synagogue every week and cover their hair. Everyone had non-leather shoes.

Outside on the way to the car, a father, who has been coming to synagogue all his life, asks his two teenage sons- “Did the Rabbi say that all the kinot tonight were all to commemorate the expulsion from Spain?

22 responses to “Tisha BeAv Evening

  1. I don’t get it. It’s Tisha B’Av. The rabbi was right about tragedy. As I was preparing to go to shul, I took off all of my jewelry from work that day (except my wedding ring and watch, I did change my watch though to a less decorative one). I took off my earrings as I thought, “no jewelry on Tisha B’av” even though it would have looked great with the hat. I did leave on my makeup because it was already there but I didn’t “freshen” it.
    Hey, it’s Tisha B’Av. I left my Iphone home on purpose. The world and I can do without each other for an hour or two. Are we that connected to our 21st century lives that we can’t disconnect for shul? Could this where the kids are learning about “halfshabbos” and using it on their own terms? Why are they coming to shul?

    By the way, the guy in shul saying to sell everything is in LaLa land. With such a drop you buy the good stocks, you don’t sell low. I think he was in a panic over other things and blaming it on the government.

  2. This post is meant to sound interesting and profound, but unfortunately it involves portraiture of trite and uninteresting people. The author of this blog has so refined his analytic faculties that he is unable to see that they are mostly wasted on those around him. Sorry.

  3. Brutal. Sadly, extremely vivid without having been there. But still a brutal indictment.

  4. Cheryl,
    I can’t tell whether you’ve misunderstood the irony of the blog, or you’re exploiting it.

  5. Why not give the attendees credit for just showing up, instead of bemoaning their shortcomings?

  6. No irony intended.I am not sure if I am sad or perplexed or empty. Or this was just it a fluke for this year.
    In many Hasidic tales, we praise the wagon driver who come to shul but is still involved in his horses, their reins, and the wagon, greasing a wheel as he reads. Let the Holy One see that His children have a hard time making a living and still come to shul. Praising the peasant who applies all the kinot to his broken wagon.
    But that was not the way it felt.

    • Alan Brill!! Yehudah sent this to me though I didn’t realize it was you till now. It brings our little corner of Morgenstern back together.
      Reading your piece it brought me back to my years in summer camp where Tisha B’av was one of the most compelling religious days of the year. I remember each bunk gathering together on their porch and then joining the 20 minute silent torch lit march down to the lake where we all sat on the ground with our flashlights and listened as Eicha was read aloud – watching it as it floated across the lake in stillness. 800 kids together in one space and for one night each summer nobody spoke, nobody joked, nobody broke the silence or the spell – miracle enough for a day in need of miracles. The melody and that lake still haunt my memories with an intense feeling of sorrow and loss. It transformed us all for those few hours from a group of your typical loud and noisy kids into something else – dare I suggest a congregation or even a community in mourning. It was one of the few memories where religion and spirituality coexisted so perfectly.

      The sadnesss of it all is not just that the adults are unable or uninterested in creating that holy and solemn space together, but that their children – sitting in their play chairs – will never know that wonderful bittersweet feeling of loss, and the promise of redemption.

  7. @Tesyaa, if I’m understanding Dr. Brill correctly, he’s not bemoaning what people do in shul or denying anyone credit for showing up. He’s writing factually and in his typical academic/detached nonjudgemental manner. At a macro-level — how is OJ changing along with the culture and what does it mean for the future?

    • He’s writing factually and in his typical academic/detached nonjudgemental manner. At a macro-level — how is OJ changing along with the culture and what does it mean for the future?

      I am not sure this has any real facts, I definitely do think there is a judgement here, maybe just disappointment. I have no academic cultural change or social trend to point out.This is not my favorite post. I would not overly generalize from those sitting in that section. I somewhat agree with tesya. Three rows cleared out for kinot in front of me and if one is sitting on the floor then that is one’s entire horizon. Maybe I should have only mentioned the iphone guy to my right but the entire package had a certain air of emptiness.

      • This is not a new issue. Can’t the same be said of any davening? For example, does anyone in a large MO shul really feel the aimah and yirah of RH and YK they felt at yeshiva in Israel (or that their [great-]grandparents felt in the shtetl? The only difference is the presence of the i-phone in public since it wasn’t Shabbat or YT. Your disappointment shouldn’t be a result of Kinot on 9 Av.

  8. I’m sure his writing is factual, but not necessarily detached. How about mentioning the women who did not wear flashy jewelry? (I’m sure there were some). Instead of mentioning that many older men left after Eicha, why not mention that many older men stayed for kinos? What is left out is as important as what’s included, as is the general tone of the post.

  9. Hopefully, with over 500 in attendance you were just in the wrong section of the shul.

  10. Jesse,
    I’m not misunderstanding or exploiting the post. I think in my innocence I expect more from people. There are certain basic things we are taught that are and are not done in every situation. No leather shoes during shiva and on Tisha B’Av, done. No jewelry on both as well. I felt disappointed by the report.

    Tesyaa,
    It is nice people showed up but how much credit do you really get? You don’t get passed to the next grade in school for just showing up and besides, what else are you going to do Tisha B’av night? go to the movies?

    I just felt very sad and empty by the post.

    • I think in my innocence I expect more from people.

      In some ways I’ve become cynical, because I used to expect more from people too. However, I found I didn’t benefit from expecting more from other people.

      You can look for more elsewhere, as in a more right-wing community, but you may be disappointed there as well (in all likelihood).

      It’s really better imho not to look at other people, or if you do, look for the good, not what’s disappointing. You will always find something disappointing.

  11. We couldbe melameed zechus on people as follows . Monday was a horrendous day in the market. The feeling everywhere is that the world financial system is unraveling, and there will be no place to run. Everything goes down, people run to Treasuries and then suddenly there will be hyper-inflation. When the market is down ten percent, most portfolios are down more, because in order to get a return unzerer yiden pile into stocks with high volatility, and then depending on what they feel forced to earn, add leverage. A typical guy could have seen 20% of his weath disappear in a few days. Who wouldn’t be upset? And who has the strength not to think of today’s tzurus on Tisha Beav. If the rabbi proposal of kinot for 1492 is appropriate, the current situation where entire countries, (Greece, Italy, maybe France) are going bankrupt deserves at least a sigh.

    We should all be proud of how these anxieties are playing out in Israel where 300,000 demoinstrators came out in protest of neo-liberalism. In England, they are rioting, and in America these anxieties have led to the tea party in Israel they dream of social justice. I find it interesting that no blogger or Orthodox paper has though the demonstrations in Israel of any great signi8cance.

  12. Some people are into it and some people aren’t. That’s life.

  13. I guess the question is: you described what you saw, now we should explore why they acted that way.

  14. My erev tisha b’av,

    we gathered in a almond grove at the bottom of the tel which once was the home of the mishkan, men and women sitting separate, some children playing with flashlights, but most sitting with their family or friends. After ma’ariv, five men took turns, each reading a perek from eicha. Some who read were weeping – I’m not one who much cares for weeping during the tfila because it always seems forced – but these men, even after they read, were weeping. After eicha, kinot. No one left, no iphones, no extraneous talking. Afterwards, a rav who we all love and respect stood and spoke some words – I guess one would say of tochacha, but really words that were meant to show directions which we way have missed, to examine our ways. We walked back to our cars in the darkness, together.

    my intent is not to deride. I know how difficult it is in the States to be focused on the spiritual. But I feel like the elders of Yisrael who came to the elders of Reuven Gad and hetzi shevet Menashe after they built the mizbeah at glilot hayarden (yehoshua 22?) – if the land in which you have settled is impure, then come here and we shall make a nahala for you in eretz yisrael.

    we should all merit the consciousness to build the mikdash within, so that we may merit to build the mikdash in Yerushalayim

  15. A day that is meant to mourn destruction of a temple that people don’t really want back. Perhaps it’s true about keeping Judaism relevant on a larger scale, perhaps it’s more true in the states than in Israel, more true for the MO than the yeshevish. I don’t know. But I do know that it’s a problem– mourning this temple. Does anyone really want it back, the way it was? Can we really blame people for not feeling the tragedy of the missing building? The missing monarchy? The missing theocracy? Tisha Bav seems more complicated in Israel than here, even- since the struggle is real to figure out what works and what does not.
    Of course there are real tragedies to mourn- the holocaust, the inquisition, crusades, etc. But the main tragedies of the day are lost to me. And I think they are lost to most people.

  16. For the first time, I miss the monarchy. Having a scion of David ruling Israel would give the protesters a target for their anger and a concrete proposal for action. I wonder how his response and fate would compare to that of Assad and Mubarak… or would King David II be wise like King Abdullah, and promise the people prosperity, relatively free speech, and an ecologically-conscious Star Trek theme park?

  17. ellie, if you see what we are mourning for on tba as a building, a government, a state, then you are right. but why was it that the bavlim and the romans destroyed just a building – what we are mourning is what we did to make it just a building – sinat hinam, immorality, and on and on. we are (i am) mourning the spiritual condition of our people today that perpetuate that situation, and my part in contributing to that spiritual condition. i am mourning the closeness that existed between us and hashem when we merited the bet hamikdash, as expressed in korbanot (sacrifices – closeness) that no longer exists. i can see how you might say, sacrifices – primitive (well, i can only see you saying that if you’re a vegetarian). But certainly a ritualized slaughter of animal, using that animal death as a way of internalizing what it means to be a human in a relationship with hashem – we might not understand how that works, but perhaps we should just say we don’t understand rather than judge it. Just as on pesah we should see ourselves as though we were taken from egypt, on tba we should also see ourselves as though it was we who were sent into exile. one of the kinot says that, the repeating refrain – when i left egypt – when i left yerushalayim. and if we really don’t care that we are in exile (i don’t mean just not living in israel), then, buddy, that really is something to mourn.
    shabbat shalom.

  18. Reading your description, and contrasting it with my experience, in Europe, where there is no sermon or explication on 9 Av, but where the service isn’t any shorter, in fact, it is significantly longer, because all kinot are read out loud, sung in fact, in a mournful tune, by congregants who take turns, I wonder whether sometimes, less is not more. Do the speeches, sermons and explanation always add, or does the tune sometimes more than make up for it? I doubt the locals’ knowledge of kinot is very different from that of the people you saw. The Hebrew is difficult. But music, humming, mournful humming, transcends the language barrier, I believe. Thoughts?

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