I had a dream last night about Tisha B’Av. As one does. And in it I got into a theological conversation with a less observant friend of mine. Theological conversations are not uncommon in my dreams. Occupational hazard, I suppose.
We were sitting on the floor – one of the customary ways that Jews mourn, not only on Tisha B’Av but when we sit shiva as well. In the dream, my friend asked me why we sit on the floor on Tisha B’Av. Now let me preface this by saying that I’m not an overly emotional person. But in my dream, I started crying painful tears, “We sit on the ground on Tisha B’Av because our house burnt down. And now we’re homeless. Homeless people sit on the floor.”
I woke up and remembered what my subconscious had decided was a reason for sitting on the floor on Tisha B’Av. I had no idea where this idea had come from, but it resonated with me now that I was awake! I had never thought about it that way – that our Beis HaMikdash being destroyed rendered the Jewish people homeless, forcing us to wander from country to country, and how homeless people have no choice but to sit on the ground.
We’re in exile right now, but as everyone keeps reminding us “we Jews have so much privilege today.” Of course, not everyone Jewish person lives in a privileged situation (many do not), and we have worked very hard for the success that we have achieved. But we are certainly more comfortable than we have been in many other eras. So getting on the floor, getting knocked off our blocks for a day, is a way to remove some of the comfort we are experiencing in this discreet slice of time where life feels somewhat easy. But as Jews who know our history, we are aware that these patches of comfort have never lasted. The Torah warns us what exile will be like in the book of Deuteronomy:
Among those nations you shall find no respite, no rest for your foot…You will live in constant suspense. Day and night, you will be terrified, never sure of your existence…Such will be the dread that your heart will feel and the sights that your eyes will see.
Attacks on Jews have been going up in the last few years, even in our “privileged” times. They took a break for the pandemic, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they started up again a few weeks ago, just as the Three Weeks were beginning. It is challenging to mourn for the loss of something that occurred two thousand years ago. But we don’t have to conjure up something that feels so far away. We can imagine what our home burning down would be like. We can consider what homelessness would be like. And we can just read the news to conjure up the dread of knowing that walking around looking visibly Jewish could be a dangerous thing.
May we be able to mourn all that we have lost so that we may change ourselves enough to regain it.