An annual tradition, the 9th of Av brings us back to mourning the destruction of Jerusalem and the center of Jewish life not once, but twice, centuries ago.
We are instructed to “afflict our souls,” passing up food and drink, leather shoes, washing, and touching our partners.
We sit on the floor, thirsty and cranky, wondering how this means anything. There is destruction all around us (globally speaking), but we feel helpless to fix it or change it. Is it merely enough to acknowledge it exists? Because it doesn’t feel like it. Not only Jews, but all of humanity is in peril. Economists, climatologists, politicians, doctors, and all other manner of prognosticators are edging us all towards doom.
Happy Tuesday to YOU.
This post isn’t about that.
It’s about my pillows.
I usually sleep with two pillows. On Tisha B’av, in order to make myself less comfortable, to “afflict my soul,” I take one away.
Last night I made a concerted effort to get to bed at a reasonable hour. The kids were going to need entertaining in the afternoon, and I knew that I was not going to take them out (my non-dehydration strategy for Tisha B’av: stay in air-conditioning, don’t move much).
So I took a pillow away. And tossed and turned and couldn’t get to sleep. I am not at home, so this was not “my pillow.” I tried the other pillow. I snuck into the kids’ room and filched AM’s pillow.
Two hours later, I gave up. I arranged the pillows (two of them) as I had on previous nights. And fell asleep.
I should probably feel guilty about this. I have let down my people with a good night’s sleep. But on the other hand, I’ve paid my dues with unexplained insomnia for 20 years. In this case, I knew what was keeping me up, and I remedied it. If I hadn’t slept well, a headache–the harbinger of bad fasting still to come–might have crept up already.
But the mere fact that I am thinking about this says to me that I have lost the day and what it means. I should be mourning what was. Instead I find myself stuck: not properly upset for what was, yet also lacking sufficient faith in the future. I read Lamentations last night–the beginning of the 3rd chapter is heartbreaking. Yet out of nowhere there is faith, and by the end of the book a call to renew for the Jewish people what was in the days of old. Impossible yet possible.
I am hoping that the rest of Av will be a comfort to everyone that needs comforting, and will begin to bring a resolution to my stuckness. It might be as easy as sleeping with two pillows.