How can we truly mourn the churban nowadays?
By Shiffy Friedman
I remember the summer I was head counselor at a sleepaway camp. Know which days needed the most spectacular program? The same days that need the best dairy menu. The famous Nine Days. If you think about it, the Nine Days have become days of compensation. We feel the need to “make up” for what we’re missing. No, not the Bais Hamikdash. Can’t have the refreshing pool as a daily activity? So let’s think of the wackiest program to give the girls. Instead of a Sunday barbecue, let’s do a posh picnic on the deck. Let’s do anything in the world to compensate for what we can’t have. As kids, this worked just great for us. But as adults, we wonder if there’s anything we can do to make the Nine Days the meaningful period of mourning it’s meant to be. Here are three practical ideas for you.
Deprivation sounds like an awful word, but it suits the period of mourning just perfectly. Instead of compensating by preparing the most gourmet dairy menus, we can use this time to actually do certain deeds that remind us of the sadness we should be feeling. Because we’re so far removed from the pain of the churban, taking simple steps that deny us physical pleasure will help us keep a somber perspective. Remember what you thought of the one kid in the bunk at camp who didn’t take a shower all week long? That was when we were kids. Today, we can actually do such kind of stuff to feel the churban—if not in our bones, then at least on our skin! Instead of counting down the seconds until the next shower, internalize the state of displeasure and realize why you’re giving up on your comfort. Whether it’s using lukewarm water instead of hot, skipping the shampoo, not washing laundry, or even giving up on that daily bar of chocolate, anything you do to make the churban a more real presence in your life will help you stay focused.
The power of our minds is profound. We live in an era in which mindfulness is celebrated and encouraged—and for good reason. Although it’s been thousands of years since our nation merited to see the majestic Bais Hamikdash in its glory and to experience the blessings and joy its presence engendered, we can still envision it in our minds. And we can envision the destruction too. By spending even just ten minutes every morning during the Nine Days to think about what once was, to visualize how it all ended—you can use the kinnos of Tisha B’Av to stir your imagination— your entire day will take on a different aura.
Because the kids are out of school during this time of year, they won’t learn much about the weight these days carry if we don’t make it our business to teach them. And the only way to truly transmit a message of mourning is to first understand what’s going on ourselves. By listening to a shiur or reading a book on the topic, you can gain a basic understanding of what transpired these days during the time of the churban, and then share your feelings and thoughts with your children. It’s okay for children to hear a haunting story or two if that will make them realize what our nation has endured over the years. Especially when they ask why they can’t go to the pool when they’re literally sticking to their clothes or why their favorite skirt hasn’t been washed, use this as an opportunity to elaborate on why we do these things. Have them suggest ways that they can feel the churban in their own way (and don’t be surprised if they opt for no showers!). Discussions like these will set the tone in your home—the kind of tone that truly reflects a sense of mourning and longing for better days, may they come very soon.
“Only one who truly mourns the destruction will truly rejoice when the Bais Hamikdash will be rebuilt,” our Sages teach us. Hop on the bandwagon of the soon-to-be rejoicing crew!
L’eilu nishmas Freidel bas Y. who passed away Erev Rosh Chodesh Av.