The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av (which fell on July 30th this year) marks the most profoundly sad day on the Jewish calendar. Not only does Jewish tradition hold that the destruction of both our first and second Temples took place on this day thousands of years ago, the day is the anniversary of scores of other tragic events befalling the Jewish people throughout millennia.
This year, as the pain and suffering of the COVID-19 pandemic seem to abound around us, we find much to mourn in the present day—racism, loss of life and deepened inequities in our country. And we struggle. How then can pain leave room for joy?
Only a few days following Tisha B’Av, which is also known as the saddest day of the year, comes Tu B’Av ( “the fifteenth of Av”), which is known as one of the happiest days. An ancient cousin to Valentine’s Day, Jewish tradition calls Tu B’Av a “Festival of Love.” Several moments of rejoicing took place on this day:
- Traditionally, women would dance in vineyards, dressed in white, to attract suitors to marry. The act of dressing in uniform gave women an equal chance to find someone as suitors did not know who had wealth and who didn’t.
- The ordinance prohibiting intermarriage among tribes was lifted.
- The generation of Exodus ceased, meaning that the last of the doomed generation who roamed the desert for 40 years passed, leaving room for the new generation to cultivate a Holy Land.
While these stories may not be so applicable today, there are several lessons we can extrapolate from them.
Lessons of Equality
The story of women dancing in vineyards in clothing that didn’t differentiate them calls us to champion equality. This leaves us inspired to support organizations that promote equality so that we can all dance together.
Lessons of Community
The lift of the ordinance that banned members of different tribes from marrying makes us think about the fight for racial justice and the creation of anti-racist communities. We’re grateful to be living at a time when integrating the diverse members of our county, from immigrants to indigenous people, is considered a priority. Here a few organizations that are leading the charging of creating stronger communities.
- North County LGBTQ Resource Center
- Jewish Family Service San Diego Refugee & Immigrant programs
- Moishe House
Lessons of Justice in the New Generation
The passing of John Lewis z’l reminds us that our leaders of justice reform will not be with us forever. They leave, however, a new generation ready and willing to work for justice. We’d be remiss to not call attention to the recent full moon that centers justice. According to this Refinery29 article, the recent full moon energized us this month to continue fighting for a more just and equitable world, while also causing us to reflect on how we want to enact social change in the future.
For this, we look toward the organizations helping the new generation light the path toward justice.
- Anti-Defamation League, San Diego Chapter
- Mid-City Community Action Network
- Environmental Health Coalition
- Bend the Arc’s Selah Leadership Program
The month of Av reminds us of great suffering, and it reminds us the joy that follows. It also calls us into action, to do work that creates a more equitable and just future for all. As we depart from Tisha B’Av, Tu B’av, and all of their dimensions, let us be reminded of the dimensions of our ability to move from mourning into love, and love into action.