Monday, July 23, 2007

Breaking Down to Build Up

Tisha b'Av, the fast day on the Jewish sacred calendar that commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, as well as other calamities that have befallen the Jewish People, starts this evening at sundown. For my teacher Rabbi Alan Lew, it begins the period of preparation for the Days of Awe, the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In his book, This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared, he writes:
"Tisha B'Av comes exactly seven weeks before Rosh Hashanah, beginning the process that culminates on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Tisha b'Av is the moment of turning, the moment when we turn away from denial and begin to face exile and alienation as they manifest themselves in our own lives -- in our alienation and estrangement from God, in our alienation from ourselves and from others. Teshuvah -- turning, repentance -- is the essential gesture of the High Holiday season. It is the gesture by which we seek to heal this alienation and to find at-one-ment; to connect with God, to reconcile with others, and to anchor ourselves in the ground of our actual circumstances, so that it is this reality that shapes our actions and not just the habitual, unconscious momentum of our lives."(41-42)
This idea of starting this gesture of turning, of looking to strengthen one's foundation out of a moment of destruction resonates with me this year. I feel the rebuilding process in both body and soul coming out of the five year transition from my bout with cancer. What I have learning in those years, about myself and others, will serve as my foundation as I move forward in my life.

I also think there are times it is necessary to break down walls in order to rebuild. My friend Tannis asked me to talk about the significance of the breaking of the glass at her wedding last year. Along with some more traditional explanations, I proposed that the glass breaking represents the destruction of the last bit of wall between the couple, creating an opening that they can walk through together on this new journey together.

Tisha b'Av remind us of the need to break down those stagnant parts of our lives in order to create an opening to fill with our teshuvah. To quote Rabbi Lew once more:
"Tisha B'Av is the beginning of Teshuvah, the process of turning that we hope to compete on Yom Kippur, the process of returning to ourselves and to God. And t he acknowledgment of the unresolved in our lives, as a people and as individuals, is the beginning of the sacred power the Days of Awe grant us -- to transform our lives in his moment when we feel the pull of both the waning moon and the setting sun; in this place, in this life, here and now." (50)
May all who are fasting have an easy fast, and, through the breaking down, may you each find your opening.

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