The Art of Lamentation

Ocean Guy noted that today was a Jewish Observance, Tisha B’Av. I don’t think this is a well known part of the Jewish experience, but it caught my eye since some of the Prophetic Christian teachings occasionally make reference to it. ( Prophetic as a term of Christian interest…sort of like the ‘Emerging Church’ is a definition. )

It is a significant day in the Jew’s history that this day on their calender marks numerous catastrophes for them as a people. More on that here.

Lamenting has a purpose in ones life. It is more than mourning, it is reconstructive. That is why it is associated with certain traditions and rituals. It is meant to serve the purpose of reminding one of the sufferings that humanity is subject to, but also to remind one that because there are reactions to actions, there is hope of change. There are solutions to the problems of life.

And that is something of what makes fasting useful. Fasting has the effect of humbling one, and releasing the senses for introspection and consideration. It is telling oneself that the great “Me” is not so all-important and is, in fact, rather dependent.

Ocean Guy had a link to Judith Weiss’ post on more of how this observance is conducted:

Tisha B’Av is the culmination of the solemn Three Weeks, which begin with a fast that commemorates – among other things – Moshe’s confrontation of the Israelites over the Golden Calf, and the first breach of Jerushalem’s walls by the forces of Nebuchadnetzar. Each Shabbat a haftarah of rebuke is chanted, wherein the prophets castigate Israel for immoral behavior. During the Three Weeks we are not supposed to get haircuts, buy new clothes, listen to music, or get married. In other words, it is a period of mourning and the laws of mourning apply.

On Erev Tisha B’Av we also observe rules of mourning: we sit on the floor of the shul, the ark is draped with black, the only illumination is from candles or flashlights. In addition to the regular service, we chant Eicha, the Book of Lamentations for the destruction of the First Temple, by Jeremiah. I wish I could find a music file on the web so you could hear it – to me it’s the most beautiful of all the tropes. It’s heartbreaking.

One can see the community emphasis on concerns that are more important than ones own, and implied within are the humbled heart and looking upward for help and deliverance. Mourning with purpose:

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD .