chronic pain/fibromyalgia · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · Los Angeles · prayer · rabbi

Crying on Tisha B’Av

My first Tisha B’Av was spent at the OU in Jerusalem. The best part of this might shock you, but it was definitely that there were plenty of people there that were twice or three times my age at services. When it came time for Eichah to be read, I sat in a chair with all the little old ladies. When they asked why I was sitting in a chair and not the floor, I told them about my fibromyalgia and they told me about their own aches and pains and of course, remedies. Was it that sense of camaraderie or being in Jerusalem that made my first Tisha B’Av so special?

I wish this Tisha B’Av in Los Angeles was also meaningful. Despite attending classes in preparation for the day, I found myself feeling less than prepared. When I walked into shul for Maariv, I already felt sick to my stomach and I knew I was setting myself up for failure.

I looked around the synagogue. There were only about four little old ladies sitting in seats. The rest of the women were already spread across the thick, carpeted allergy-inducing floor around the seats. I took a seat in the back. And it felt like everyone was staring at me. Or maybe I was staring at them? Perhaps, this is what my husband once called the “social” discomfort of being handicapped after his yeshiva spent a week studying disabled people and Judaism?

I piled four siddurim (prayer books) in my lap and propped them up as a makeshift book stand in my lap. I refused to get up for the Amidah figuring that if I hurt myself during that portion of the davening by standing up and holding a book in my hands, I wouldn’t be able to make it through Eichah. But as it turns out, I only barely made it through Eichah anyway.

Through Eichah, I tried to focus on the reading in front of me but found it difficult. I felt so uncomfortable high up there in my little seat. Thankfully, my husband had slipped me a book with English and Hebrew translation that was different than the two being used by the rest of the congregation. But unfortunately, I had no way of knowing where the rest of the congregation was in the reading even when the rabbi, thoughtfully, called out page numbers. Oy.

After Eichah, the davening (praying) seemed to go on forever and I couldn’t recognize any of it to find my place in my book. I felt myself falling deeper and deeper into a sadness that had nothing to do with Tisha B’Av. It had everything to do with being the girl who always had always had the right answers growing up, being dubbed by my whole family “the smart one” for most of my life, and now being Jewish and feeling like a fraud. Taken down a notch, now “the stupid one.”

When the pain finally crept its way down from my face, into my neck and nestled itself into my leg, I decided to leave. Didn’t even realize that services were almost over. I made it down the block and around the corner before I started sobbing. Feeling so confused about my place in the world. The Jewish girl, the rabbi’s wife, the convert…who knows all about Tisha B’Av but still can’t follow services. The girl who feels at home at Judaism but who, sometimes, feels so alone.

4 thoughts on “Crying on Tisha B’Av

  1. I just had a good cry as well on this Tisha B’Av. My Dad had surgery on this day 8 years ago and this was the start of a long illness that eventually claimed his life three years ago just as the 9 days were starting. Ironically, I did get into Eicha last night. We had a house minyan in our Chicago neighbourhood which although was over very quickly was actually quite meaningful. Let us hope this is the last Tisha B’Av for Klal Yisrael!

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  2. Hey girlfriend, you are not alone! I have been there (lost in the foreign language of a religion I chose) many, many times. But each year it does get a tiny bit easier.

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  3. “Something from Aicha that really resonated with me — that may be the whole message of this day — is from the third chapter. I’ll type it in English, it’s just easier. And I might not type all of it, it’s long. But feel free to look it up, 17-41:“My soul despaired of having peace, I have forgotten goodness. And I said, Gone is my strength and my expectations from Hashem. Remember my afflictions and my sorrow, the wormwood and bitterness. My soul remembers well and makes me despondent. Yet, this I bear in mind, therefore I still hope. Hashem’s kindness surely has not ended nor are his mercies exhausted. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness!…etc.”What I have learned from my own mourning, and what I think is the most important thing to take from Tisha Ba’v, is the need to move forward with faith in Hashem. Because while, yes, there were tragedies and incomprehensible atrocities from which we still suffer the repercussions today — things could have been worse, and they will be worse if we don’t have faith that they will get better.”

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