top of page

This is Av: A time for weeping and lament

Five misfortunes befell our ancestors … on the ninth of Av. …On the ninth of Av it was decreed that our fathers should not enter the [Promised] Land, the Temple was destroyed the first and second time, Bethar was captured and the city [Jerusalem] was ploughed up – Mishnah Ta’anit

What is Tisha B’Av (a primer video)

This is the month of Av. A month of mourning and remembrance.

In Av, we mourn for the many ways we humans hurt each other, tear each other down, and diminish the dignity of the other. The Jewish month of Adar, when we celebrate Purim, is dedicated to laughter and rejoicing. The month of Av is the mournful twin of Adar. It is the month dedicated to ashes and sack cloth, mourning and lament.

We humans, Av reminds us, can be profoundly destructive, horrible to each other and the planet. Av is also a time to remember and mourn what was lost throughout our history: families, cities, temples, culture, art, languages. In the heat of the summer, when there is a warm ripeness in the air, we bow our heads and allow our tears to fall.

When I was growing up we always commemorated the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 9th of Av. The use of nuclear weapons on a population of innocents, the massive destruction of life and land, the poison that continued to emanate from the bombs and the fire, the death, the maiming—all of this is reminded us of what we did, Americans, to wreak destruction on another population. Our family added Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the list of who and what we mourn this month of Av. Sometimes we are the victims, but it is also profoundly important to remember that sometimes we are the perpetrators.

We are living through a catastrophe right now. Today more American citizens will die of a raging virus. Every day we watch illness and death around us. Covid-19 is burning through our nation. It is decimating lives, industries, careers, celebrations, long-standing traditions, educational much destruction is left in its wake. And we know...this is not the decimation of an earthquake or a volcano. This is the work of human incompetence and greed. The human hand is unsettlingly visible in this current catastrophe.

She weeps, yea, she weeps in the night, and her tears are on her cheek; she has no comforter among all her lovers; all her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies. Lamentations 1:2

It is appropriate, needed even, for us to lament this month of Av. To wail. To bemoan. To let out our grief. How many buried without friends and family? How many died alone? How many died because they were essential workers? How many died because they had no choice but to work to put food on their table? Let us cry out. The injustice. The orphans. The widows and widowers. The loss. It is too great to comprehend. So we sit on the ground and cry our hearts out. This is Av.

In our grief we seek a restoration of what once was. We think back to the days of old, how things used to be and we recount our losses. We look back knowing that the only true movement in life is forward. We know our world will never be the same. Our ancestors knew their world would never be the same after the destruction of the 1st Temple, the 2nd Temple, after the expulsion from Spain and after the Holocaust. Oh, we have known catastrophes. We know how to move through the rubble, pick up the stones and build a new house. We know when to pack it up and leave what we have known for the unknown-in order to survive. We find restoration not in what was, that is gone forever, but in the hope of a better future. After our time of dedicated mourning, we pick ourselves up off the floor, dust off our clothes and put one foot in front of the other. This too is Av.

This is the Jewish season to say goodbye to the past. What our nation was a year ago exists no longer. We are moving into a new reality and who knows? It might be so much better then what we knew. From catastrophe we learn about renewal. From death we learn about life. From suffering we learn about joy. All of this goes hand in hand. This is our holy path as Jews. We have been walking it together in this way for over thousands of years.

We will be commemorating the 9th of Av on Thursday August 30th from 12-1pm with readings and teachings from traditional Tisha B’Av texts and liturgy via Zoom.

Lunch Time, Tish B'Av Commemoration

Meeting ID: 849 1973 9039

Passcode: 93%89(91

And on August 7 at our 7:30pm Friday night Shabbat service we will dedicate a portion of our time together to a special remembrance of all those who we have lost to Covid-19.

Below are resources for engaging in this month of Av. Poems, a Tedtalk and a recording of the traditional lament from Lamentations. Each resources explores the themes of this month in a different manner. My hope is that they will add to your wealth and depth of knowledge of this season. And please remember: Its alright to cry. Allow your tears to flow. It is not just alright but encouraged. Mourn and lament for all that we have lost this year. Weep. So that what you sow in will come to reap in joy. The new year is right around the corner and we will begin again.



The mishna says

senseless hatred

knocked the Temple down

not the Romans with their siege engines --

or not only them, but

our ancestors too

who slipped into petty backbiting

ignored Shabbat

forgot how to offer their hearts

we're no better

we who secretly know we're right


we who roll our eyes

and patronize, who check email

even on the holiest of days

who forget that

a prayer is more than a tune

more than words on a page

in Oslo parents weep

and we're too busy arguing

motive to comfort them

across the Middle East parents weep

and we're too busy arguing

borders to comfort them

in our nursing homes parents weep

shuddering and alone

and we're too busy --

even now what sanctuaries

what human hearts

are damaged and burned

while we snipe at each other

or insist we're not responsible

or look away?

The Velvatine Rabbi


God has pity on kindergarten children.

He has less pity on school children

And on grownups he has no pity at all,

he leaves them alone,

and sometimes they must crawl on all fours

in the burning sand

to reach the first–aid station

covered with blood.

But perhaps he will watch over true lovers

and have mercy on them and shelter them

like a tree over the old man

sleeping on a public bench.

Perhaps we too will give them

the last rare coins of charity

that Mother handed down to us

so that their happiness may protect us

now and on other days.

Yehuda Amichai

Two poems by Toge Sankichi: Hibakusha (A-bomb survivor)

August 6th

How could I ever forget that flash of light!

In a moment thirty thousand people ceased to be

The cries of fifty thousand killed

Through yellow smoke whirling into light

Buildings split, bridges collapsed

Crowded trams burnt as they rolled about

Hiroshima, all full of boundless heaps of embers

Soon after, skin dangling like rags

With hands on breasts

Treading upon the spilt brains

Wearing shreds of burnt cloth round their loins

There came numberless lines of the naked

all crying

Bodies on the parade ground, scattered like

jumbled stone images

Crowds in piles by the river banks

loaded upon rafts fastened to shore

Turned by and by into corpses

under the scorching sun

in the midst of flame

tossing against the evening sky

Round about the street where mother and

brother were trapped alive under the fallen house

The fire-flood shifted on

On beds of filth along the Armory floor

Heaps, God knew who they were....

Heaps of schoolgirls lying in refuse

Pot-bellied, one-eyed

with half their skin peeled off, bald

The sun shone, and nothing moved

but the buzzing flies in the metal basins

Reeking with stagnant odor

How can I forget that stillness

Prevailing over the city of three hundred thousand?

Amidst that calm

How can I forget the entreaties

Of the departed wife and child

Through their orbs of eyes

Cutting through our minds and souls?

At the First-Aid Station


Who weep although you have no ducts for tears

Who cry although you have no lips for words

Who wish to clasp

Although you have no skin to touch


Limbs twitching, oozing blood and foul secretions

Eyes all puffed-up slits of white

Tatters of underwear

Your only clothing now

Yet with no thought of shame

Ah! How fresh and lovely you all were

A flash of time ago

When you were school girls, a flash ago

Who could believe it now?

Out from the murky, quivering flames

Of burning, festering Hiroshima

You step, unrecognizable

even to yourselves

You leap and crawl, one by one

Onto this grassy plot

Wisps of hair on bronze bald heads

Into the dust of agony Why have you had to suffer this?

Why this, the cruelest of inflictions?

Was there some purpose?


You look so monstrous, but could not know

How far removed you are now from mankind

You think:

Perhaps you think

Of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters

Could even they know you now?

Of sleeping and waking, of breakfast and home

Where the flowers in the hedge scattered in a flash

And even the ashes now have gone

Thinking, thinking, you are thinking

Trapped with friends

who ceased to move, one by one

Thinking when once you were a daughter

A daughter of humanity

Try To Praise The Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world.

Remember June’s long days,

and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.

The nettles that methodically overgrow

the abandoned homesteads of exiles.

You must praise the mutilated world.

You watched the stylish yachts and ships;

one of them had a long trip ahead of it,

while salty oblivion awaited others.

You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,

you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.

You should praise the mutilated world.

Remember the moments when we were together

in a white room and the curtain fluttered.

Return in thought to the concert where music flared.

You gathered acorns in the park in autumn

and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.

Praise the mutilated world

and the grey feather a thrush lost,

and the gentle light that strays and vanishes

and returns.

Listen: Lamentations chanted in the traditional Ashkenazi modality

Watch: A Ted Talk about how grief transforms

48 views0 comments


bottom of page