A few comments on your Rabbi Cardozo’s latest Thought to Ponder:
Rabbi Cardozo writes: “Maybe we should literally go out in the streets and help people, sit down with our ideological enemies and see where we can find common ground, instead of simply reciting more kinot?”
Non-Orthodox communities have been doing this for a long time, and of course it is time we learned from them.
This year, there was a food-drive on Tisha B’Av at the community beit midrash (the WBM, run by Batya Hefter) in Efrat. So when people came to hear lectures after the morning davening and kinnot, they also brought food for people less fortunate than themselves. That is a very easy thing to arrange, and I think something like that should be standard in all Orthodox communities.
This is not to say that reading Eichah and fasting, etc. should be abolished.
You know that the tefilla of Nachem that we say on Tisha B’Av has various updated versions to make it more true to our times, and you know all the standard arguments, with which I agree, for maintaining the rituals of mourning. So I won’t list them.
Here are two additional reasons that I continue to fast, read Eichah, and maintain mourning practices, other than because that is what we do (a very powerful argument for me).
1) Judaism helps us recognize grief and give it respect and space. As we know, some things are not intuitive. They must be trained. I believe that this is one of the reasons that halacha is so important. It is not enough to say, “Well, I just try to be a good person and not to hurt others,” because morality must be trained and learned. Just like I cannot “just speak Spanish” if no one has taught me how, I cannot “just be a good person” without a framework. So too with my feelings of grief. In some Western societies, people do not know how to handle grief. It embarrasses them and they cannot make space for it. Tisha B’Av, with all its rituals, is a tremendous blessing. It teaches us that grief must be given space, and it gives us a framework for expressing this very human trait and need. It tells us that mourning is a right for all mourners, regardless of status. The paradigm of Tisha B’Av helps us with the other griefs in our lives. I realize that I need and deserve quiet when I am in mourning – I do not need to “bounce back” and participate in social events. I know that I can express my grief outwardly – by not wearing shoes, or by sitting low, etc. – and I do not have to hide it and pretend everything is ok. Megillat Eichah teaches us that we can recall, recite, chant, and declare our misery. It teaches us that we cannot come to resolution before understanding what has happened to us. And its yearly recurrence teaches us that grief is often recurring; it resurfaces every once in a while, and it must be given its due respect whenever this happens because we don’t ever “get over it” once and for all. Tisha B’Av legitimates sadness in our superficial “Don’t worry – be happy” society.
And when my sadness has been legitimated, then I can put it aside at the appropriate moment and be truly happy during happy times. Tisha B’Av teaches us how to behave when someone else is grieving. I know that another person must be given space to express her grief and I do not pressure her to get over it or hide it. Her grief does not embarrass me. I know how to handle it because of the Tisha B’Av paradigm. Shiva accomplishes much of this too, of course, but it is good to have a day when the nation is joined in mourning in the same way that a personal vacation is nice, but it is good to have a day (Shabbat) when the nation is joined in the dignity of rest. Like Shabbat, Tisha B’Av is an equalizer. Today no one is rich and no one is poor, no one is more or less blessed. We are all mourners, we all forego food, clean clothes, fancy chairs, etc. It builds us as a nation through sadness as Shabbat builds us as a nation through happiness. On reflection, what a bracha this is!
2) When I find it difficult to fast on Tisha B’Av, for the reasons you list, I fast in protest. I go on hunger strike! God, we are in great shape right now, but when will you bring a geula sheleima? When will you bring geula to the whole world? It is up to us, perhaps, but surely it is up to You too? I will not eat today, despite the commandment of ושמרתם את נפשותיכם, and despite all the wonderful things you have made in the world to sustain me, to show my impatience. We must work on making a more just society, and You, God, must help us! Until You do, I will go on hunger strike every 9th Av!
This approach is obviously more emotional than rational, but it works for me. Perhaps it will work for you too.