Remembering What We Wish to Forget

At sundown tonight Jewish people around the world will observe Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning and the saddest holiday on the Jewish calendar. Many major Jewish tragedies have fallen on or very close to this date, the ninth day of the month of Av, throughout history. Both the First and Second Temples were destroyed on this day; the Jewish people were expelled from England, Spain, and France around this time; and the first group of Jewish people were transported to the Treblinka death camp on the ninth of Av, effectively beginning the Holocaust. 

This day is so important in Jewish culture for a reason many of us tend to ignore: remembering and growing from tragedy. Against the backdrop of the discouraging events of this year, Tisha B’Av is even more important and universally relatable. Many of us have looked at this year as one to forget, a collection of sadness and strife that we wish we could wipe clean from our memories. 

Yet entire books of the Bible focus on acknowledging tragedy. Think of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Lamentations. They were written during the dark days of Israel, but the prophets who wrote these books didn’t try to sweep calamity under the rug. They brought it to memory and brought it before God with humble hearts, as we should do, too. So rather than trying to erase sorrowful memories from our lives, both this year and every year of our lives prior, we should learn from Tisha B’Av by confronting these moments with honesty and humility before God.