Waiting For All the Answers
This year I am almost at a loss for words.
The last two years I have wrestled with the question, “Why are we mourning on Tisha Baav?”
The first time I asked the question, I was living as a new olah in Jerusalem. I was so overwhelmed by the intensity and vibrancy of the city, it made no sense to me to be mourning for what was alive all around me.
The second year, I was broken by a stream of endless deaths and tragedies of all kinds to befall our people; our luminaries dying from cancer, accidents, terrorism in the States and in Israel. I then learned that though it feels that we are deep in the redemption process, we were living in an unredeemed world of so much pain. It was empathy and faith that better days will come that we can experience on Tisha Ba’av.
I couldn’t in my wildest dreams have imagined the dystopian nightmare that we are living through this year.
The question, “Why are we mourning on Tisha Ba’av” seems like such an easy answer now.
Tisha Ba’av is the pinnacle expression of communal mourning. We have always mourned the destruction of the Temple, but also the myriad of other tragedies that befell the Jewish people in this time period, during our long history.
Today, each one of us can rattle off a list of things that leaves us feeling bereft. How many lives were taken this year– in war, violence, or from this COVID-19 plague. “Mi Yichyeh Umi Yamut” took on a whole other meaning in the last few months. The rise up of antisemitism. Livelihoods disappearing. Schools closing. Endless in-fighting. Anarchy reigning in the streets, in our politics, and in our homes.
Last year I wrote, “sometimes it feels like we are living in a world of chaos.” This year it doesn’t feel like a ‘sometimes.’ The world has turned upside down in a way where much of life’s predictability– of safety, sustenance, stability- has disappeared.
In the last few months, I have heard cries for Mashiach to come in an earnestness I have never witnessed before. So many around the globe have felt that we are standing on the precipice of major change. Life has become so bizarre that we find ourselves waiting for that moment of redemption, searching for its overt and covert signs.
We pray for redemption so regularly; our lives and liturgy are lined with a reminder of its promises.
We are waiting for a moment when everything we are experiencing will finally make sense.
What do I hope that moment will bring?
Relief from pain.
Healing of all illness.
Actualization of personal and national potential.
A reversal of sadness to joy.
Answers to our most pressing questions that will help us understand the lives we live.
A world of peace and prosperity.
We have lived generations of persecution and pain where we were taught that when Mashiach comes, then- and only then- we will understand.
Looking at this past year, it’s easy to see why we are begging for answers.
I pray that this Tisha Ba’av, the collective mourning of all our losses will bring us finally to the blessings of a new era of redemption.
I pray for a future of healing and peace.
I pray that next year, we have all the answers.
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.