The Jewish Calendar has certain seasons during which a certain focuses (foci?) are expected from us.
There is Elul (search for #BlogElul), the month when the focus is on the upcoming festival of Rosh Hashana and the year it brings in.
There is Sefiras HaOmer, the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuos, when we take a trip, a journey, from Mitzrayim (Egypt) to Har Sinai (Mt. Sinai). We attempt then to become the kind of people who are capable of receiving the Torah.
Then there is the upcoming three week season, called בין המצרים , book-ended by two fast days, that primarily commemorate the destruction of the Jewish Temple, and imitate a number of Jewish mourning practices. We learn how limited we are, as a nation.
In this optimistic age, it seems inappropriate to focus on failings. In an era and a language that came up with the phrase “The sky is the limit”, it seems impolite to think of how we are trapped by our limitations.
Yet, as a smart fellow once told me, “It is what it is.” When one is limited, it’s important not to fake reality. We do have limits. More specifically, we as the Jewish People are limited by certain historical realities. We are not where we should be.
The Torah expects X from us, and at our very best, we are at (x-n). On a daily basis, we try to spare ourselves the stress of thinking too much about it. But such a stress-free attitude has a risk; we might forget there is a problem. I think of those who ignore certain flashing lights that appear on the dashboard of their car until it is too late.
We cannot risk forgetting that we are not living the ideal. And as Jews we know that if something is to be remembered, action is required. This loss of our ideal state has many facets. Therefore, there are many facets to the observance.
I don’t want to focus on the sadness and loss alone. There is a way of dealing with loss in a positive fashion. It consists of focusing not on the loss per se, but on the qualities of what we had. A few years ago, a Lubavitcher Chossid told me that the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that the three week period preceding Tisha B’Av is a time during which people should learn more about the Temple. This way, focus on the loss is transformed into emphasis on the positive status we had, and expect to have again. I plan to spend the next three weeks on both the nature of the loss and its commemorations AND some insights into that lost world.