Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Shivah Assar BeTamuz - "Moments of Rupture"

7:43 PM - In The YU BM. Mincha is in seven minutes. Two guys are shmoozing next to me about whether or not a guy they know is or ever was frum. Their next topic: When's Maariv? Their answer? 9:11.

I did not intend on transcribing a conversation, but I didn't count on it being held on top of me. As if by osmosis they just walked away. What I wanted to write and think about was what breaking down of walls and the other four things that happened today mean to me.

The five things that happened on this date: Moshe broke the Luchot, the Korban Tamid was stopped, Yerushalayim's walls were broken down, a Sefer Torah was burnt, an idol was placed in the Beit HaMikdash.

8:31 PM - Mincha just ended, Maariv was announced for 9:04.

I need to give credit where it's due, I might have (might?) written today anyway, but I was particularly inspired in focus by Alieza Salzberg who gave a creative writing workshop today at the Drisha Institute called "Picking Up the Fragments: Learning and Writing About the Memory of Destruction." I almost went but took a nap instead. And yet the class description got me thinking: "The fast of 17th of Tammuz commemorates moments of shattering in Jewish History. Most famously we remember the crumbling walls of Jerusalem, but also the breaking of the luchot Habrit (tablets of law) when Moses saw the Jews worshiping the golden calf. We will explore the historical importance of the fast day and the question of our memory of these moments of rupture. How can we reassemble the fragments of the city walls; can we glue the words of the luchot back together? We will discover the importance of our own writing and imagination in healing these wounds and piecing together the fragments"

Earlier this evening a friend of mine tried to connect the five things that, tradition has it, happened on this day. He suggested that they were all consistent realities in the lives of the Jews that were ripped away from them. I think, generally that's what a tragedy is, when a reality is altered in a bad way.

I once stayed in someone's dorm room in BMT and there were lyrics of a Carly Simon CD lying around. The words struck me, and a friend of mine, who is a UJA fundraiser later told me that these lyrics have been used by UJA. The song asked, "Do the walls come down when you think of me? Do you let me in?"

The one holiday on which I generally think/talk about walls is Sukkos. One of the reasons why a sukkah can't be too high is because the shade must come from the top and not the sides. Walls represent us protecting ourselves, as opposed to the essence of the sukkah, which is the schach that represents our Protection from Above.

First there was a siege, then the walls were broken, destruction of the Temple itself was imminent...

8:55 PM - Looks like there's about to be a minyan in the room I'm writing in...

9:09 PM -Maariv is done. According to myzmanim.com the fast, in my zip code, ends at either 9:08, 9:13, or 9:22. I'm going to go eat soon. And yet I want to keep writing. There's something I appreciate about being in this altered state, and I think this is the point of fasting. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch writes that if you fast but spend the day in a normal way then you are embracing the tafel - secondary and rejecting the ikkar - primary part of the day. Whenever I tell that to anyone whatever their stripe or age they ask (in one form or another, "Oh, so that means I don't have to be fasting?" I think fasting changes us and that's the point. There is great added potential to tap into when we enter an altered state, such as fasting.

Our walls broke down today, and when they did did we think of G-d? Did we let Him in? Maybe part of the problem was that those walls were excluding rather than including G-d. Ironically the walls that were supposed to bring G-d close to us, within those walls, needed to be broken down to allow for the potential of letting him in. I pray that G-d be close to me and yet sometimes my actions contradict my words. The walls I build speak loudly. What walls do we each build around ourselves? What are we keeping out? What are we letting in? Who are we thinking of?

Do we thirst for G-d? Do we hunger for His Law and Lore and Word? Do we love G-d? More than food?

9:19 PM - I'm going to go eat and drink. Good luck in your journey bein hametzarim.


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