Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tisha B'Av: Now it's Personal

We're told to find ways to make Tisha B'Av, our day of fasting for the destruction of the Temple, personal to us. The Beit HaMikdash is so far removed from our experiences as Jews today, that it is sometimes hard to relate to the Kinot of Eicha.

While we think of Tisha B'av as being the memorialization of a national tragedy - the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash - we are also recalling a million personal tragedies. We try hard to identify, then, not only with the destruction of walls, but rather the upheaval of lives. Thinking about it, I realized the Jews of the time must have had their entire worlds turned upside down when the Temple was destroyed. Daily sacrifices, Cohanim, the festivals where Jews travel to reach the Temple - these were things that were an integral part of every Jew's life. We are told Hashem dwelt among the people in the Temple, and we lost that Presence when the we lost the Temple. The lives of the Jews must have been shattered.

My sister's diagnosis of cancer has turned our world upside down. Her life as a mother, her excitement in a new job, is now all completely focused on healing, caring for herself and learning how to accept each new limitation. Her husband's world is all about her - he rarely leaves the hospital, his existence revolves around doctors, radiation appointments, making her comfortable.

Her young children - an infant and a toddler - haven't seen their mother for more than a few minutes in two weeks. And when they did see her, she was too tired to do more than sleepily cuddle. They were thrust into full-time daycare, are temporarily living in their grandparent's rental apartment. Her parents, those same grandparents, have left their retirement life, dropped everything to come to Israel to help out however they can. Her father, who likes a clean, quiet home, is doing his best to contend with the chaos that children bring into a home - toys, diapers, clothes, bottles everywhere. Her mother spends a good part of the day tending to the baby.

Her sister - me - hasn't slept in her own bed in over a week. I haven't been to my own home in that time, aside from a quick 2-hour trip, where I spent lots of time snuggling with my animals, who seemed surprised to see me. Along with my niece and nephew, I have also temporarily moved into my parent's rental apartment. Shabbat was the first day my husband and I have spent together in a week, and the night was shared with the kids. I sleep with the kids, and get up with the baby every 2 or so hours. I have no children of my own, so this is very new to me.

Her brother-in-law- my husband - is basically holding down our household alone, and spending a good amount of time driving back and forth from Modi'in to Jerusalem to see me for an hour or so, and always helps with the kids.

We're not complaining; we all do these things willingly, with hearts full of love, without hesitation, and will do them as long as necessary, until my sister, please God, is well enough to take care of them again herself. But one person's diagnosis of cancer is not just one person's diagnosis - it turns whole worlds upside down, shatters expectations, and sets people adrift. No. I have no problem relating to Tisha B'Av this year. May we only hear good news.