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Tisha B'Av: One thing I ask
Today at sunset it will be the eve of Tisha B'Av. It is a day which marks great tragedy in the Jewish Calendar. Both the first and second temples were destroyed on Tisha B'Av. The first was in 586 BC when the Babylonians conquered and the second was when the Romans demolished the temple in 70 A.D. Since the second temple fell the Jewish people have mourned for its rebuilding.
Though it may seem strange at first, this day reminds me of my wedding. I married a Jewish man and we had a Jewish wedding complete with the breaking of the glass when the groom recites the words of Psalm 137 verse 5:
If I forget you Jerusalem
May I forget my right hand
May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
If I ever don't think of you
If I don't raise up Jerusalem above my highest joy
Though there are many interpretations of what the broken glass symbolizes, many see it as a memorial to the destruction of the temple. My husband explained that the broken glass is to remind us that even in moments of our greatest joy we must not forget the loss of the temple and the importance of Jerusalem.
Our ceremony was one of the most treasured memories of my life and when my husband broke the glass I thought about the temple and Jerusalem. I felt grateful that even during one of the happiest events of my life, I was reminded that God's glory is above mine. I really treasure the Jewish symbolism that speaks to us of a narrative that is far greater than our own.
This year I won't make it to Jerusalem, but I remember spending Tisha B'Av in Israel's capitol city in the past. Thousands of Jews from around the world come to Jerusalem to walk around the Old City Walls. I went with one of my Jewish friends, Sara Rebi, and and other Christian friends who also wanted to participate. Sara took us to a large center square on Jaffa Street. We joined the enormous crowd in sitting on the floor as a Rabbi read from the Book of Lamentations:
The elders of the daughter of Zion
Sit on the ground and keep silence;
They throw dust on their heads
And gird themselves with sackcloth.
The virgins of Jerusalem Bow their heads to the ground.
After the entire book was read the crowd filed out to walk around the walls. During this time I could hear both joyful signing from those who were focused on the hope of a brighter future as well as mournful tunes accompanied by tears from those who were weeping for what had happened in the past. I saw a few men wearing sackcloth and ashes. It was really amazing to me because it was something I had only read about in my Bible and there it was right in front of me.
Finally everyone ended up at the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. It is the only remnant of what is left of the Holy Temple. Thousands and thousands of Jewish mourners have visited this place. They come weeping over the loss of the temple and yearning for the day it will be made new. The wall is a symbol of sorrow but also of great promise and redemption.
Tisha B'Av is a somber day and yet there is undeniable beauty in it. As I recall seeing so many people in Jerusalem gathered together, longing for God's presence in their lives and in their land I am humbled. It is a sight I recall with deep emotion. As I remember my wedding day and the broken glass reminding us of the loss of the temple, I am humbled. This day has taught me something of great worth. Despite how busy life becomes and no matter if I am thrilled by happy occasions or discouraged by hard times one thing transcends it all - one thing. King David expressed such a sentiment in the 27th Psalm:
One thing I ask of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in His temple.'
The "one" thing is not simply a building of great worth, power and beauty, but the one thing is to be near the great worth, power and beauty of the "One" who inhabits the temple. Tisha B'Av is about the great and awesome glory of God. His presence once dwelt physically in the temple and on Tisha B'Av we as Jews and Christians mourn that loss, yet we look forward to and long for the day when we will behold Him in His temple. The day when His Kingdom will be on earth as it is in heaven.
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