On Tisha B’Av, we fast and we read Megillat Eichah, the Book of Lamentations. The Midrash on Eichah begins:

Three prophesied with the word “eichah”: Moshe, Yeshayahu, and Yermiahu. Moshe said (Devarim 1:12) “How (eichah) shall I alone bear your burdens?” Yeshayahu said (Yeshayahu 1:21) “How has she (Israel) become a harlot!” Yermiahu said “How is it that she (Jerusalem) sits alone! (Eichah 1:1)” Rabbi Levi said “An allegory of a noblewoman who had three advisors. One saw her at peace, one saw her agitated, and the other saw her in disgrace. So too did Moshe see Israel in their peace and their glory, and said ‘How shall I alone bear your burdens?’ Yeshayahu saw them agitated (sinning), and said ‘How has she become a harlot!’ Yermiahu saw them in their disgrace, and said ‘How is it that she sits alone!’” -Eichah Rabbah, 1:1

When a Jew observes the entire Jewish year, and does so attentively, they experience Judaism in its entirety. When we observe Purim, with its costumes, partying, and gift-giving, we see a festive religion. At the Pesach Seder, we expound upon the symbolic meanings of the foods before us, the characters of the four children and the ways that the rabbis portrayed them. We see a religion rich in literary analysis and intellectual foment, mixed with messages of freedom from oppression. At Tisha B’Av, with the difficult fast, the lack of Torah study, and the mournful attitudes and practices, we see a religion of a people fixated upon its destruction and fall from glory.

We do not know Judaism if we only know one aspect, or a few aspects, of it. The same, obviously, is true of human beings. Consider these fictional characters:

Elliot is a lawyer who fights tooth and nail for the rights of poor families who are wrongly evicted from their homes, or stuck in insurmountable debt to predatory lenders. He has saved hundreds of people from homelessness in his line of work. At home, he is verbally, and sometimes, physically abusive, and he cheats on his spouse. Or Celine, who established a multi-million dollar foundation that funds addiction recovery centers; is a loving parent; but overworks, illegally underpays, and verbally abuses her gardeners and her housekeeper.

The degraded state of the Jewish people that we acknowledge on Tisha B’Av is very real. During this time of the year, we are the people who were conquered, punished by God, and tossed out of our homeland because of our own lack of basic morality. We are the Jew who went to prison after bilking millions of dollars out of thousands of people in a ponzi scheme. We are the Jew who was imprisoned for human trafficking. We are the Jew who made common cause with white supremacists, forgetting where we came from. We are the Jew who, out of a disdain for what they believe Zionism to be, disassociated themselves from Israel, home to 46% of the world’s Jews. We are the Jew who, though innocent of all these things, was considered guilty by association, and punished accordingly.

When Sukkot comes, we will be the Jew who rejoices in the sustenance that the source of existence provides us with, at home in our temporary dwellings. When Chanukah comes, we will be the Jew who overcame their oppressors, and warms the atmosphere of their home with candles by the window and satisfying fried food. And every week, we will be the Jew who stops working and sees the fundamental good of the world that we were born into.

All these things are real, and all these things characterize us. No one is one-dimensional. We simply experience these equally real sides of ourselves at different times.

To all who are healthy enough to fast, I wish that your fast may be meaningful.

T0 everyone, Shabbat Shalom.

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