Tisha B Av

Tisha B’Av and the Cycle of the Jewish Year

Written in June 2010

In honor of Rabbis Arthur Waskow, Goldie Milgram and Cheryl Weiner

In his commentaries on Shavuot, Reb Levi Yitzhak of Berdichiv writes, kol hayamim tovim tzrichim lahem remez. Each of the holy days must have a hint. He then proceeds to show hints within the observance and understanding of Shavuot and each of the other regalim[1] and the high holy days, using the Jewish wedding to demonstrate a connection between Shavuot and Yom Kippur.

A groom and bride are forgiven for their transgressions (which is why we have a custom of fasting on our wedding day prior to being under the chuppah) and, says Reb Levi Yitzhak, chaz”al (the sages, of blessed memory) tell us that our wedding day is matan torah (a time for receiving Torah), so on Shavuot, it is as if we are getting married and we are the bride, and our transgressions are forgiven, and this is the remez (the hint) between Shavuot and Yom Kippur. (Kedushat Levi, Beha’alotecha, 298)

The hours of our wedding day before the chuppah are considered a personal Yom Kippur among Ashkenazim and Sephardim. To me, this feels counter-intuitive. Connecting Shavuot with Yom Kippur feels like a stretch to me too since we recite hallel on the regalim and it is a time for se’udot mitzvah (a ritual meal) and enjoying ourselves, (v’samachta b’chageynu… v’hayita ach sameyach) whereas Yom Kippur, as the Torah tells us, is a day to afflict our souls.

Yet it is precisely these connections and interconnections that confound our minds, stretch us beyond our comfort, and appear to be counter-intuitive that are the signature qualities of our Jewish liturgical observance.

Why does the groom break a glass and remember the destruction of the Temple when moments earlier, he was just bound in marriage? Why does the bride fast while getting her hair and nails done?  Why see this as a day of matan Torah (receiving the Torah) and remembering that G!d is part of our union? Isn’t marriage primarily about the connection between my beloved and me?

Not according to Judaism. Our entire liturgical cycle is available to us on our wedding day, and I respectfully submit that this is also true on Yom Kippur and Tu B’Shvat, and indeed on Tisha B’Av.

I think it is wonderful that Rabbi Arthur and others are seeking to find new meaning to connect with the mourning of Tisha B’Av in the evening and early in the day, and to connect with the focus on Mashiach Tzeit (the coming of the Messiah) in the afternoon.

As the birds and fish and other wild life continue to suffer and many lose their lives along the Gulf Coast of the United States, I hope we can bring an ecological focus to our prayers this summer, whether during the three weeks or at other times. And I wholeheartedly agree with Reb Goldie and Reb Arthur that it is important to focus on our ecological concerns during the week of Parshat Noah and on Tu B’Shvat.


[1] Regalim is short for Shalosh Regalim, the three pilgrimage festivals, Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (Feast of Booths) during which the ancient Israelites made pilgrimage from their homes to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to bring offerings and celebrate the festival.