Category Archives: Tisha bAv

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Devarim, and to Tisha b’Av.

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to all! Join us at 9:30am on Saturday morning for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Pam Wax, where we’ll read from parashat Devarim, the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy.

Join us also on Saturday evening for our observance of Tisha b’Av. (Contact the office to find out the time for that observance.)

return-to-shabbatIf you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, some links follow:

If you’d like to learn more about Tisha b’Av, here are a few resources:

And here’s the URJ’s compilation of commentaries on this week’s Torah portion: Dvarim at the URJ.

Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact the office.

Entering Av: a “d’var Torah” about this moment on our holy calendar

This isn’t so much a “d’var Torah” as a “d’var calendar” — the text I’m exploring this morning is the unfolding of our calendrical year.

Last Friday, just before Shabbat, we entered into the lunar month of Av. Av contains the low point on our communal calendar: Tisha b’Av. Tisha b’Av is the day when we remember the destruction of the first Temple by Babylon in 586 BCE, the destruction of the second Temple by Rome in 70 CE, and countless other tragedies that have happened at this season in other years, from the beginning of the first Crusade, to the expulsion from the Warsaw Ghetto and the mass extermination that followed.

Tisha b’Av is a day for confronting brokenness. The brokenness of the world. The brokenness of our hearts. And yet tradition teaches that on the afternoon of Tisha b’Av, moshiach will be born. The beginnings of our redemption arise from this very darkest of places. It’s a little bit like the Greek myth of Pandora who opened the box containing war and destruction and famine and all manner of awful things — and at the bottom of the box, found hope. A tiny spark of light to counter the darkness.

It’s the height of our beautiful Berkshire summer. Why would we choose, as we move into Av, to delve into grief? Because if we don’t let ourselves feel what hurts, we can’t move beyond it. If we don’t let ourselves acknowledge what’s broken, we can’t mend. If we don’t let ourselves acknowledge what feels damaged, we can’t begin to repair it. Brokenness is part of the human condition, and the only way to transcend it is to let ourselves feel it fully. Feeling what hurts is the first step toward healing the hurt we feel.

According to the Mishna, on Tisha b’Av we mourn not only that long list of historical calamities, but also a psychospiritual one: the time when the scouts went into the Promised Land, and became afraid of what they saw, and returned to the children of Israel and said “we can’t go there, those people are giants, we must have looked to them like grasshoppers.” Av is a time for remembering how we diminish ourselves when we let go of faith for a better future and let our fear rule us instead.

Why would we want to look at the times when we’ve been afraid? Why would we want to examine our own complicity in the cycles of brokenness that are a part of every human life — how we keep bringing ourselves, over and over, back to the same issues, the same fears, the same hurts? Because in that examining, we strengthen our power to make different choices. We don’t have to repeat the mistake the scouts made. We don’t have to repeat our own mistakes. We can make teshuvah — we can turn.

Rabbi Alan Lew writes,

Tisha b’Av is the moment of turning, the moment when we turn away from denial and begin to face exile and alienation as they  manifest themselves in our own lives — in our alienation and estrangement from God, in our alienation from ourselves and from others.

This new lunar month invites us to recognize that our constructs — the narratives we’ve inherited or built to tell us who we are — are just that: constructed. And like everything else in this world of entropy, they fall apart. When our constructs are shattered, we feel shattered, too. But Tisha b’Av comes to teach us that even when the walls crumble, even when the Temple is destroyed, even when our constructs shatter and we feel adrift, something more lasting than all of these persists in us.

You can call that something “God.” You can call that something “Love.” You can call that something “Transformation.”

Av is our month of greatest sorrow — and in that greatest sorrow, we find an opening to joy. In facing what’s falling down, we find a way for our spirits to rise up. In facing our fear and our complicity in succumbing to that fear, we find an opening into a future of promise. In facing our feelings of helplessness, we find strength. In facing the darkness, we find light. Kein yehi ratzon.


These are the remarks that Rabbi Rachel offered at CBI yesterday morning (cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)

You might also find useful this set of resources for Tisha b’Av 5776 on Kol ALEPH, the blog of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

Shavua tov; looking forward to Shabbat Devarim and to Tisha b’Av

Shavua tov – a  good week to you!

This week we’re reading the Torah portion known as D’varim, the first portion the book of D’varim (“Words,” e.g. Deuteronomy.)return-to-shabbat

If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, some links follow:

And here’s the URJ’s compilation of commentaries on this week’s Torah portion: Dvarim | URJ.

This coming Shabbat morning, services will be led by Rabbi Pam Wax.

This coming Saturday evening, July 25, Rabbi Pam Wax will lead our community’s Tisha b’Av observance. We’ll begin with a short a study session “Joy and Sorrow in Jewish Practice and Tradition”, followed by a short service and the reading of a selection from the book of Lamentations, led by Rabbi Pam Wax. The service will take place by candlelight. Those who are comfortable doing so are invited to sit on the floor, as a sign of mourning. Please bring a cushion and a flashlight to read by. By the way, those who have seen the animated Pixar movie “Inside Out” in which Joy and Sadness are major characters, will have much to add to our conversation! (It may still be playing in North Adams.)

Tisha B’Av is commemorated as a day of mourning for the destruction of both the first and second Temples, as well as other tragedies befalling the Jewish community. Kindly RSVP to the office by noon on Thursday, July 23 if you plan to attend, so that we can plan for seating and xeroxing needs. All are welcome.

Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact Pattie Lipman.

We hope to see you soon at CBI!

Tisha b’Av: Monday, August 4 at 8pm

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

On Monday evening (August 4) at 8pm we will observe Tisha b’Av at CBI with an evening service which will feature poetry both classical and contemporary, psalms and prayers, lamentations and hope.

Tisha b’Av is the anniversary of the destruction of the first Temple in 586 BCE, and the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE. In our own day, Tisha b’Av beckons us into the darkness of inner exile, so we can emerge into the Season of Teshuvah. Enfolded in community, we invoke the depth of Tisha b’Av for the purpose of rising anew.

This year we will use a renewed liturgy for Tisha b’Av. Excerpts from the Biblical book Eicha (Lamentations) will be interwoven with contemporary poetry (by Toge Sankichi, Yehuda Amichai, Mark Nazimova, Hannah Stein, and others) and with a simple evening service.

The service is brief, but hopefully its emotional impact will linger — and will become the springboard from which we will ascend upwards toward the Days of Awe. Please join us.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Tisha b’Av Date Correction

Dear CBI members and friends,

I’m writing to correct the dates of Tisha b’Av; the announcements which went out this week contained a date error, for which I most sincerely apologize! The days of the week were correct (Monday night, Tuesday afternoon) and the Hebrew dates were correct, but the Gregorian calendar dates were off by one day.

We will indeed be meeting for our evening service at 8pm on Monday — which is July 15th, not the 14th as was in the original announcements. And we will gather for afternoon study at 3pm on Tuesday — which is July 16th, not the 15th as was in the original announcements.

All are welcome to attend one or both of these observances, regardless of whether or not you are fasting. On Monday night we will read the book of Lamentations in English, hear a little bit of it in the mournful melody unique to this day of the year, and immerse in some poetry designed to open us to the loss and grief of the day. On Tuesday afternoon we will study texts about repentance and fasting as the day takes a turn from despair toward hope.

Wishing everyone a sweet Shabbat —

Rabbi Rachel

Entering the month of Av

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Chodesh tov: a blessed new month to you!

Today we enter into the lunar month of Av. During Av, we experience the low point of the Jewish liturgical year — and some sweet high points, too.

For members of our Rosh Chodesh group, there is a nondairy potluck lunch at CBI today at noon (bring a salad of some kind to share) — we’ll ring in the new month with a lunch-and-learn focusing on some of the unique spiritual gifts of the month of Av.

Next Monday night and Tuesday (July 14-15) we’ll observe Tisha b’Av, the 9th of Av. On this day we remember the fallen Temples and the brokenness of creation. It is traditional to fast from the sundown beginning the 9th of Av (next Monday night) through the sundown marking the end of the 9th of Av (next Tuesday night.)

This year at CBI we’ll observe Tisha b’Av both with an 8pm service on the night of July 14 (featuring Lamentations, poetry, and a guided meditation) and a 3pm study session in the afternoon on July 15 (featuring texts relating to Tisha b’Av, to communal cohesion, and to the spiritual impact of fasting.) We’re inviting the folks at Beth El in Bennington to join us for both of these as well.

This year, our month of Av overlaps with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (The Muslim sacred calendar, like ours, is lunar; but we have a system of “leap months” in seven out of every nineteen years, to keep our fall festivals in the fall and our spring festivals in the spring. They don’t have that system, so their holidays move around the secular calendar. This year, the month of Ramadan overlaps with our month of Av.) We’ll learn a bit more about that, and about how our two traditions understanding fasting, at our Tisha b’Av study session.

One week after Tisha b’Av comes Tu b’Av, the 15th of Av, which was once a great festival of romance and dancing — a kind of corrective to the solemnity of Tisha b’Av. Stay tuned for more on that.

Wishing all of y’all a meaningful passage through this month!

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel