Tisha B'Av is a toughie.
Sure, speakers try. They sometimes succeed. When Rabbi J.J. Schacter mournfully chants the kinnos, and describes the horrors at the hands of the Romans, the Crusaders, the Nazis, I am, at times, able to shudder in remembered agony; perhaps a tear or two will ooze from my eye.
But as a grandchild of survivors, a single solitary day of sadness is an oxymoron. That sort of pain follows me around on a daily basis, a constant shadow.
A photo sits on the piano—Babi's family pre-Holocaust, posing carefully for the photographer. Her father, her mother, a younger brother, and a baby sister, tinted in sepia hues, would soon be ash; Babi survived, as did two sisters and a brother.
Babi used to say I had the little Channelah's hair. How she loved to brush it. How she loved her.
I have more heartbreaking stories where that came from, any of which can make my throat tighten in grief, any day of the year.
Pain has a way of decreasing over time, and even more so over generations. I try to tell the next crop the stories of their past, to be grateful and to put their own tribulations into perspective. Yet it is hard to connect to an age of auto-da-fés, blood libels, massacres, pogroms, gas chambers. It is so distant all too quickly, all too unrelatable.
I was explaining the concept of Tisha B'Av to a non-Jewish client.
"It is mourning, yes, but also an acknowledgement that we are culpable in our own pain. We were the ones that brought ourselves to this."
We need to recall the pain in order to end it. To realize that no matter how annoying that other Jew is to us, he is still us. That vitriol against "those" types of Jews is as absurd a dialogue as haranguing one's toe for getting stubbed. We are but one organism, one body, one.
We speak about the Holocaust in revered, hushed tones. We don't discount the victim who lived the same lifestyle that we scorn on his descendants. The recent war in Israel shredded any divides as we all, as a nation, stood up and roared "Am Yisroel Chai!" We are supposed to feel for the ones living, no matter their choices, not be content to deify them in death.
I am trying. I don't need reminders for the hardship; they have been burned into my synapses. I need reminders for tolerance, acceptance, and understanding.