Sunday, July 19, 2015

In The Narrow Places - Daily Inspiration For The Three Weeks: My Thoughts On Its Intro

Erica Brown begins by stating that the book was written in an expansive rather than a constricted context, and that perhaps this causes her capturing of loss to be flawed. Nevertheless she is grateful to the publishers, editors,grant providers, family friends, community, and colleagues. She states that the book honors the memory of her relatives who were murdered during the Holocaust in the Polish town of Zakrzewek and that this "is that closest touch-point" that she has for the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.

Dr. Brown begins her introduction by pointing out that Tisha B'Av and more-so Shiva Asar B'Tamus and the three weeks in between are generally neglected and go unrecognized. Many Jews don't observe the rituals of this time and many of those do keep the customs of this period view it as an inconvenience rather than getting into it in a meaningful manner. She writes that "the Jewish community at large has not embraced Tisha B'Av despite the fact that it is a day which is nationally cathartic. She suggests that American Jews like most Americans place comfort as a high priority and that causes them to hold Tisha B'Av at bay. She notes that American Jews mourn for the destruction Holocaust because the recent loss of millions of Jewish people is more easily understood and felt than what people perceive as the inaccessible loss of a building that never meant anything to them in the first place. Brown points out that sadly people don't realize that what we mourn for in the days approaching Tisha B'Avand on that day itself is "the loss of an aspect of our relationship with G-d."

Citing Cicero Dr. Brown develops the idea that a mature person is a person who has a sense of history and that the reverse of that assertion is true as well. Unfortunately in America today there is little sense of history, she points out, reminding us of what we all see with our own eyes - that "American holidays are generally commemorated without a historical context." The problem is made worse by the youthfulness worship of American culture, which poo poos looking back.

Happiness, Brown points out, is all the rage in America today - as illustrated by the approximately 17, 000 results that come up when you go to Amazon and search "books on happiness." However, people suffer by neglecting suffering because "suffering humanizes us." And when people morn communally for a tragedy they have in common "they form intense and unique bonds."

Tisha B'Av provides us with words and time to feel and express our pain, Brown explains. She says that this period of mourning provides the glue that can hold us together as a people.


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