Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, is often misunderstood—for Tisha B’Av is frequently perceived as a day of victimization, the date both Temples were destroyed and the Jewish People was transformed into a nation of eternal victims.
If this was true, there would be no purpose to Tisha B’Av. If this is indeed the day all Jews became eternal victims— it would be meaningless to fast, pray and do teshuva (repent) and ask for the rebuilding of the Temple.
Once one has become an eternal victim, one has no future and no hope. Why engage in prayer?
It is essential to recognize that there is a difference between victimization and victimhood. Victimization is the result of external forces. Everyone endures suffering at some stage in his life, for there are external forces we cannot control, and hence, these may cause suffering.
Victimhood, however, is a choice. Victimhood means to choose to become a victim or not. It stems from within; thus, we decide whether we turn ourselves into victims or refuse to do so.
In the words of the Greek philosopher Epictetus (c. 50 – c. 135 CE), “We suffer not from the events in our lives but from our judgment about them.” The nature of our response to life’s tribulations is a matter of choice.
No one finds himself in specific circumstances which determine and establish what his response should be. Rather, one chooses how to react to these external circumstances.
This is how Jews have acted throughout history. They told themselves that they will never assume the nature of victims, despite enduring the victimization of external forces.
Tisha B’Av is a day of suffering, but under no circumstances a day of victimhood. Jews decided to mourn for the destruction of the Temples only because they assert that on this day the Mashiach (Messiah) will be born and that one day the Temple will be rebuilt—this is not a decision of victims. It is a decision of cognitively-free people.
Jews are eternal survivors because despite victimization they never allowed themselves to descend into the depths of victimhood and become victims.
Tisha B’Av is the day Jews decided how to react to the Destruction of the Temples. Thus, the Jewish Nation did not become a prisoner of the Destruction of the Temples; instead, Jews made a determined choice in how to perceive and react to the Destruction of the Temples, and they decided not to become victims.
Tisha B’Av—a day of hope and restoration.