This has been a week that calls for a Shabbat of rest to help us mourn, to heal, to dream, and to act. In the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that ended 29 lives in an instant and injured so many others along with the news from Israel that an IDF soldier was murdered in Gush Etzion, our hearts are broken. For the families of the victims and for the injured there may be no comfort and no hope for redemption. And so we grieve with them, recognizing that there is no way to turn back the clock.The devastation is real and it is dark. In America we are again painfully aware of the spiraling epidemic of gun violence, mass shootings, the rise of white supremacy, and a political rhetoric that incites hatred and violence. And in Israel more bloodshed seems to make peace even more unattainable. While there are steps that can be taken to respond to these issues, we must take a moment to recognize the grief, fear, and frustration that has us feeling overwhelmed. We must witness, acknowledge, and feel in order to respond together.
The Jewish people have taken guidance from our traditions and sacred texts to help respond to the events of our day. They can help us find meaning in the face of fear and uncertainty in order to help us find a path forward. Judaism guides us by offering an awareness of time and how that time shapes our reality. This weekend offers us a model for responding to this moment through the pairing of Shabbat Ḥazon and Tish’a B’Av.
This Saturday night through Sunday evening marks Tish’a B’Av, a day of mourning in the Jewish calendar that recalls major calamities of the Jewish people, including the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples in Jerusalem. As we begin the fast, we will sit in our communal grief and recall the pain of our ancestors who witnessed the destruction of the world as they knew it. We will chant haunting melodies from the Biblical book of Eikha, Lamentations, which describes the devastation of a city in ruins, its holiness desecrated and destroyed. We will also chant kinot, liturgical poems, recalling other moments of pain and sadness throughout Jewish history. The process of reading these texts together is a reminder that we sometimes need to feel our hearts break and recognize that the state of our world is damaged. We attempt to gather as a community of mourners in order to remind us how to be human.
However, we don’t mourn without support. Shabbat acts as a reminder that we are not alone and that redemption is possible. Shabbat, a reenactment of the day after the Biblical account of creation, is a glimpse of what a world of peace and wholeness could be like. Shabbat helps us imagine a world where people can go about their lives without fearing for their safety and where bullets don’t tear mothers from their children. For 25 hours we dream of a better future, and when motzei Shabbat, the beginning of the week, arrives, the time to create that reality begins.
This Shabbat, which immediately precedes Tish’a B’Av, is called Shabbat Ḥazon, or “Shabbat of vision”. The haftarah we will chant on Shabbat morning from the book of Isaiah reminds us of the possibility of a return to Zion and a reconciliation with God. This Shabbat offers us a dose of resilience knowing that we are about to enter into our grief. The pairing of Shabbat Ḥazon and Tish’a B’Av is a reminder to allow ourselves to feel the deep emotional pain of our lives and our people’s past as we also cultivate hope and dream of a better world.
This year I will be envisioning a world with less hate and more loving-kindness and considering my steps of action that help bring about that vision. What is your “hazon”? I encourage you to share it out loud with your family and friends. Despite the pain and the darkness we must remember to dream and to search for concrete steps to realize a better tomorrow. Our ancestors looked beyond the darkness and envisioned something better. We can as well.