Tisha b’Av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. While in the past it may have been hard to lean into the spirit of the day, 2020 has made Tisha b’Av more accessible than ever.
“It doesn’t take much to get into the Tisha b’Av mood of sadness and isolation this year,” said Rabbi Jason Weiner, senior rabbi and director of the Spiritual Care Department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and rabbi at Knesset Israel. “We’ve been in it for months now and it makes us yearn even more for a better day.”
Every Tisha b’Av, husband and wife Sal Litvak and Nina Davidovich Litvak read Lamentations for their online community — Accidental Talmudist — but this year, they said their stream will also be focused on current events.
“Usually on Tisha b’Av, we are enjoying the summertime, kids are in camp and we have to force ourselves to feel sad about something that happened a long time ago,” Davidovich Litvak said. “This year, everyone is experiencing sadness, loss and fear. We all know what it’s like to miss a way of life we didn’t appreciate when we had it. It will actually be easier to get into the proper mindset for Tisha b’Av, and our mourning will be more authentic and meaningful.”
Yael Friedman, owner of kosher delivery service Kitch’N Giggles, said she normally doesn’t get to go to synagogue on Tisha b’Av because she’s watching her small children. Now, she said she’s looking forward to the opportunity to participate in these services virtually.
“I think this pandemic has made religion more accessible to so many people, especially those who normally aren’t able to attend services,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to the end of the fast, because it brings so much hope for the future. I think that’s a feeling we all need to cling to this year.”
Registered nurse Boaz Hepner said that when he was commemorating Tisha b’Av at the Kotel last year, he never could have imagined “that one year later I would be listening to it on a Zoom chat for the safety of my family. While I fast, I will be thinking of the vaccines and medical advances that will no doubt allow us to safely be with our communities in person l’shana haba’ah (next year).”
Artist Rae Shagalov, who had COVID-19, said she’s still feeling the lingering effects so she’s concerned about fasting. However, she isn’t sure how much different the day will be “unless, God willing, we’re all dancing with Moshiach,” she said.
Yoga and doula Yulia Medovoy Edelshtain said she believes that the fasting on Tisha b’Av is critical in light of the current times. “Fasting is so holy and atones, so especially in the state of the world today, connecting to HaShem is needed more than ever.”
While I fast, I will be thinking of the vaccines and medical advances that will no doubt allow us to safely be with our communities in person l’shana haba’ah (next year).” — Boaz Hepner
Rabbi Jason Rosner of Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock said, “In truth, we’re battling to save our society and equitably restructure our entire way of life against a backdrop of outrage fatigue and uncertainty. Emotionally open conversations are what we need in order to find hope. Tisha b’Av gives us a model of how to have such conversations.”
Rabbi Elchanan Shoff of Beis Knesses Los Angeles said that in his eyes, Tisha b’Av is no different this year than any other year. “Tisha b’Av, whether in shul or at home, whether in Jerusalem or Treblinka is more important than anything else,” he said. “The incredible miracle of Jewish return to our historic homeland after 2,000 years is because of Tisha b’Av; because we never forgot. There is a lot more work for us to do on our way to a rebuilt Jerusalem. Forgetting that is forgetting our way. Don’t let this Tisha b’Av slip away. It’s the greatest tool that we have to fix all that remains broken and unfinished in this world.”