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What is Tisha B’Av really all about?

The last few days, I’ve been in a funny mood – you might have noticed. I’ve been feeling frustrated, angry, even a little bitter, that despite so much effort, I’m going into yet another Tisha B’av with what feels like zero progress on so many fronts.

In fact spiritually, I even feel as though I’ve been going backwards in some ways, recently. I tried to capture a little of that HERE, but I feel I’ve had so much brain fog going on the last weeks I’ve lost touch with my soul again.

Yes, I’ve still been doing an hour a day of talking to God (or trying to…) – sometimes even more. In the old days, I could sit down for a six hour talking to God session, usually on Shabbat when I had the time to spare, and come out of it feeling like something had really moved or ameliorated.

The last few months, even the six hours I’ve been doing don’t give me much of a spiritual ‘bounce’. The best I can say, is that I feel calmer, usually, and sometimes I get a bit more clarity, and a bit more hope and determination to continue.

But underneath all that, there’s this sense of what am I doing all this for? Where am I going? How can I carry on like this, aimlessly drifting because I can’t seem to get anywhere, still?

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On Shabbat, I did another six hours on why I feel like such a spiritual zombie so much of the time, when God threw me a clue:

I have tremendous amounts of despair gushing around still.

It’s not preventing me from getting on with things, day-to-day, and thank God, I’m not a depressed zombie or an angry, ranting cynic (most of the time…) but what I am is totally despairing that things are going to change. On the national level, it just seems to me like the ‘bad’ always wins, the superficial is always preferred, the lie is always more welcome than the truth.

In my own dalet amot, there seems to be so many things I’ve given up on or lost over the last few years, that I can’t seem to figure out how to get back. I know what happened with losing the apartment in Jerusalem, last year, was a massive blow, psychologically. Just as I thought I’d actually got somewhere – we signed, after all!!! – it all turned around for the worst, and left us with the biggest nightmare we’d had to deal with for a very long time.

It’s been a year since we made the agreement with our seller that saw us pay for all of her expenses (and of course ours…) as the ‘punishment’ for being dumb enough to trust her, and for being dumb enough to trust our dumb lawyer was actually doing his job. I think it’s taken a year for what happened to really work its way through my system.

The last 2 days, I realized that I’ve been effectively numbed-out for 18 months.

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Part of me knows it’s good to have had so many things not get anywhere, and to have so much frustration and failure. It keeps me humble. But it’s also keeping me lonely and despairing, because another part of me just doesn’t want to try anymore.

We’re meant to sit on the floor and weep over the destruction. Thank God, me and my family are healthy and we have a roof and food to eat. That’s already so much to be grateful for. But there are still parts of my life that appear to be ‘destroyed’, and that I can’t see any way of fixing.

I’ve pretty much given up on making new friends, for example. So many people have gone crazy the last few years, that I find it easier to keep my distance than too risk getting to close when the inevitable implosion happens. But I miss talking to people. I miss inviting people for Shabbat. I miss being part of something, socially.

And I just don’t see how it’s going to come back. I think I’m just too weird, these days, too out of sync with what passes for ‘normal’.

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Also, my spiritual side seems to be bumping along the bottom.

If not for the Rav and Rebbe Nachman, I really don’t know where I’d be because I am just going through the motions with so much of my yiddishkeit. I try to learn 2 laws of the Shulchan Aruch most days, with my husband. Of course I try to keep Shabbat, Kosher, the laws of Tisha B’Av etc etc – but I’m doing so much of that from a place of ‘default’, and not from a place of enthusiasm.

My kids keep telling me: we can’t pray, because we can’t really feel anything when we do.

I get them. I feel that about almost all the mitzvahs right now. There are so few things I’m doing that I can really feel I’m getting anything back from. My husband says this is good. He tells me this is keeping Torah lishma, for its own sake, and that this makes Hashem very happy.

I’m doing my best to believe him.

And in the meantime, I sit here spinning my wheels, wondering what I’m meant to be doing with my life. More pointless blog posts? More pointless books? More pointless efforts to try to move forward and ‘get somewhere’, even though it feels there is totally no point in even trying?

It’s a struggle of will each morning, to get out of bed and get on with the day, because it all feels so aimless and pointless.

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All this effort, but I’m so far from giving God what He really wants from me.

I’m still struggling with very harsh judgment calls against other people. I’m still lazy. I’m still selfish and self-centred, not really seeing other people in my picture and looking out for number 1.

The Temple isn’t rebuilt still, and I know who’s to blame for that: me.

Hard as I try, I can’t switch my ‘bad’ into good. I can’t be the force for good that God really wants me to be. I can’t resist goading people and provoking them, and seeing their ‘bad’.

So today, I’m going to try and sit on the floor, and spend some time mourning the destruction. I’m going to try to cry a bit, sincerely, for the trainwreck that modern life has become. It’s a place where we spend so much time staring at a screen, it hurts the eyes to look a real person straight in the face. It’s a place where the inner destruction is so total, we can’t feel anything anymore. Where the ability to really speak from the soul has been replaced by Whats App monologues and emojicons.

Today, I’m going to cry a bit, and spend some time engaging with the broken bits of my life.

I’m broken God, I’m clueless. I’m lost and hurting. I’ve given up on things ever really changing.

And I wish things were different.

But it’s totally beyond me to change them.

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I don’t know whether it’s the heat, all the ‘stress’ we’re all picking up on and having to deal with in our own lives, a ‘ruach’ that God is sending down to the world via the solar wind and celestial disturbances, all of the above…

But I’ve noticed that a lot of people are walking around pretty grumpy and irritable at the moment.

When we get like that, our fuses are that much shorter, our urge to judge people harshly is that much stronger, and our tendency to pick fights with other people – often over nothing much – and to take things personally, in order to release all that pent-up frustration and inner dissatisfaction is sometimes overwhelming.

We’re in the three weeks right now, so all of these tendencies are probably at their nadir, as we head into Tisha B’Av and mourning the destruction of the Temple.

Remember, the temple was destroyed due to sinat chinam (baseless hatred), which Rav Ofer Erez very nicely broke down into four main issues, namely:

  • Jealousy
  • Anger
  • Hatred
  • Hakpada (judging others harshly)

Once we stop doing these four things, we’ll get the third Temple rebuilt and the exile ended.

So there’s some real work to do!

Over the next three weeks, you and I are for sure going to be put into any number of situations that are going to press our buttons, and cause us to believe that other Jews are nasty, hateful jerks.

Maybe, I’ll write something here that presses your buttons… maybe, someone will email a stupid comment on the spur of the moment that wasn’t so well judged…maybe, someone else will snap at their kid for something really minor…maybe, their husband will snap at them…

I’m telling us all now, that this is going to be happening a lot over the next three weeks, as God wants us to fix the sin of sinat chinam, so He’s all going to be giving us lots and lots of opportunities to take a deep breath, step back from instant negative judgment calls, and to do the work of trying to find a way of NOT getting angry / hating / jealous / harshly judging others.

I know, it’s real work, isn’t it?

I know, believe me I know, it’s not at all easy.

But that’s the challenge God is throwing down to us all right now, and every tiny little move in the right direction we make is literally changing the whole world, and bringing the redemption closer.

So, let me end by apologizing to any readers who I’ve inadvertently offended or annoyed over the last little while. I’m not perfect, I’m not pretending to be, and like everyone else, I’m also struggling with a lot of ‘inner stuff’ that doesn’t always make for the most enlightened or inspired reading.

I’m sorry!

But please don’t judge me so harshly for my lapses. If I write something dumb or ill-judged, tell me nicely but don’t start hating me for it. I’m working on stuff, I’m trying to improve, and I’m asking God to help me, and that’s really all any of us can do, at this stage.

Ultimately, we Jews are all amazingly holy, pure, Divine neshamas – a part of Hashem Himself – that are walking around covered up by a whole bunch of gashmius klipot (husks or shells of evil). The more I try to see through the klipot, the more the Divine Light in the Jewish people is shining through.

But it’s work! Ongoing work!

So let’s make an agreement that at least for the next three weeks, we’re going to cut each other a lot of slack, and give each other a break. When people say or do something dumb or upsetting, we’re going to do our best to understand they got temporarily overwhelmed by a yetzer, and they’re acting out of inner pain, confusion and turmoil, and not just because they’re trying to hurt us or make us feel bad.

(Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to stick around for more nasty treatment from very difficult, unrepentant characters, but the point here is to not HATE the person, not even in our hearts, as we walk away.)

And if we really try to do that as best as we can, we may yet be celebrating the Third Temple on Tisha B’av.