Let him sit alone in silence,
for the LORD has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope. — Lamentations 3:28-29
This month, Jews around the world will observe Tisha B’Av, the darkest day on the Jewish calendar when we mark the destruction of the two Holy Temples and other calamities that have occurred on this day. I’m sharing with you weekly devotions based on my book, Generation to Generation: Passing on the Legacy of Faith to Our Children, about Tisha B’Av and the lessons of hope it has for us today.
Every year, before the sun sets on the 8th of Av, our family sits down to a meal. Unlike other holiday meals, instead of dessert, we end with traditional mourning food — a piece of bread with an egg dipped in ashes. The ashes symbolize the tragedies that we are about to mourn; however, the egg, with its circular shape, also reminds us that nothing — even the worst of times — lasts forever.
Once the sun sets, Tisha B’Av begins. My husband and I bring our children to the synagogue where we mourn as a community. We leave our jewelry and leather shoes behind and wear simple clothing and shoes. At the synagogue, we enter quietly and refrain from greeting friends. We sit on the floor in darkness, and with a flashlight in hand, we follow along as the Book of Lamentations is recited aloud to the traditional melancholy tune.
Naturally, when my children were old enough to understand, they asked us why we do all of these strange things. This provides the opportunity to teach them about hope. We teach our children that while our focus is on gratitude, contentment, and joyfulness the rest of the year, we take one day to think about and express our emotions about all the things that make us sad. We are allowed to be angry with God. We are permitted — even encouraged — to question His ways. We are allowed to be sad about the tragedies that are part of life. There is only one emotion that we cannot feel — despair.
Children know that we do not live in a perfect world. They see the brokenness all around them. People get sick. Unexpected disasters such as floods and fires and earthquakes occur all too frequently. There are kids that go hungry, families that are falling apart, children in Israel who must run to bomb shelters, terror attacks, hate crimes, mass shootings…the list goes on and on. But as people of faith, we believe that this is not how the world is supposed to be. We believe that we are on a journey toward a perfect world.
All year round, I give my children the tools that they need in order to deal with the difficulties and challenges they face in life. I teach them resilience, how to find the positive aspects, and to have faith in God and His plans. I teach them to pray to our almighty God and to consider how we might help make the world a better place.
On Tisha B’Av, I teach my children an entirely different lesson. I tell them that our broken world is unacceptable. It is not the way God intended our world to be, and it is not the way that things will always be. We can never get used to the way things are or settle for a less-than-perfect world.
Your turn: Download a complimentary sample of my new book, Generation to Generation, at generationbook.org to learn more about passing on our faith to the next generation.
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