I Was Wrong, About Tisha Ba’av
I was wrong.
Last year on Tisha Ba’av, I was a brand new olah, living here in Jerusalem for no more than two weeks. I stood out on my mirpeset, and I looked out on the city, twinkling with light and movement, while I heard the words of Eicha. I wrote a piece that night, almost confused, questioning why we still need to mourn for the loss of Jerusalem. I couldn’t understand why we were still deep in loss, when I was living in a vibrant city?
Are we not living in the process of the ultimate redemption? The nightmare that unfolds in Eicha, was long-healed as far as I could see.
Several weeks later the first event that shattered that image, was the murder of Ari Fuld z”l. That loss ruptured my idealistic innocence and as it was one of the first terrorist attacks since I made aliyah. All of a sudden I saw the state of our people in a new way. Though I felt redeemed by the fact that I was living in Israel, the reality of living in Israel was not just Zionism. Zionism today, also has to factor in loss.
Since that day, as a nation all over the world, we have had so many tragic losses, of all kinds. Parent’s dying. Young children dying. Heros being washed away. Terrorism, war, rockets, cancer, accidents, antisemitism, mass shootings. Much more.
I think about the names that we have spoken about, written about, and prayed for: Shira Ish-ran’s unborn child that was never given a chance at life. Moshe Agadi who was killed in a barrage of rockets from Gaza. Ori Ansbacher who was assaulted and murdered while taking a walk in the Jerusalem forest. Rose Mallinger, Melvin Wax, the Rosenthal brothers and more who were murdered in shul in Pittsburgh. Lori Gilbert-Kaye who was gunned down in shul in California. Young mothers, Dr. Avigayil Rock and Ahava Emunah Lange, who we recently lost to cancer. Sophie Spangenthal who we lost from cancer, a 6-year-old girl, who inspired her entire community to pray and do mitzvot. Rabbi Reuvan Bauman, who died saving a camper from drowning. Dvir Sorek, who was found stabbed on the side of the road, clutching the sefarim he bought for his rebbeim as end of the year presents. Zichronom livracha.
These are just a few, and the list goes on and on. I can’t imagine how the list goes on, in your lives. We have been dealt too many personal and national losses, and they all feel so fresh.
Reflecting back on this year assures me that though I believe that the mashiach is close, we still have much to mourn. We are still living in an unredeemed world. A world that is harsh and full of fear. A world of toxic politics, wars of words and ideas. Skies of rockets, and rocks thrown through our windows. People and guns that kill innocents.
Sometimes it feels like we are living in a world of chaos.
So today, we reckon with the place in time that we inhabit. With the dangers despite the blessings. With the reality of today and the future we pray for.
I have learned anew, why we mourn.
I will tell you what else I learned. I am continuing to learn about faith and hope. The meaning of, “Emunah Shlaimah,” a full faith. Because it is the tragic moments that teach us to hold on to faith in God, and to each other. Faith teaches us about the inherent goodness of humanity. It’s a crash course in the beauty of living. The healing powers of love. The incredible life-sustaining magic of belief in a higher power and a plan bigger than all of us.
Though we wrestle with tragedy, most often I have seen kindness be the first response. I have seen the healing that is accomplished through community and connection.
Tisha Ba’av is an exercise in empathy. It is an expression of grief. It is an opportunity for us to believe that things will get better. That the prophecy of redemption is on the horizon.
That we should look towards the healing, joy, and peace of the era of geula.
Ani ma’amin be’emunah shlaimah, b’viat hamashiach. Ani ma’amin.
Shira Lankin Sheps grew up in New Jersey and went to Stern College for women. After graduating from Hunter College School of Social Work with her MSW in clinical social work, she worked in the clinical field, in marketing and photojournalism.
She decided to start The Layers Project to help break down stigma and promote healing within our Jewish community.
She feels strongly about presenting women, who are so often shown as shallow characters or fully removed from Jewish media spaces, as three-dimensional individuals whose lives are full and rich with resilience.
Shira made aliyah with her family two years ago to Jerusalem.
Headshot taken by Tzipora Lifchitz.