Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Food glorious food!" / Parshat Re'eh

“Food glorious food!
“They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.”
“Eat to live; don’t live to eat.”

My daughter arrived home from Israel late last night, after a summer than included leading a Birthright trip (“it was awesome”), five weeks of study as a Tikva Israel Fellow (“it was beyond awesome”), and three weeks “couch cruising,” my husband’s term for traveling from friend to relative to friend all over the country and crashing on their couches (“it was phenomenally awesome”). We picked her up at BWI last night. So much to talk about. So much to catch up on. No sooner had she hugged and kissed us all and gotten in the car, than she said, “Ema, when are you going to make me pizza?” Her father and brother (for whom I had made pizza the previous night) echoed, “Yes, when?” I have not the slightest pretensions of being a talented cook, but I do make, well… awesome pizza from scratch. Food -- and eating together -- has a special place in our lives. This is true for everyone, isn’t it?

Parshat Re’eh begins with a reminder to the Israelites that the power of blessing and curse lie in their hands:
See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandment of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you this day; curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn way from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow others gods whom you have not experienced. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)
The Israelites have choice; they have control. They can choose lives of blessing.

And while there are many topics covered in the parashah, two themes predominate and are interwoven throughout Parshat Re’eh: idolatry and food. The concerns expressed about idolatry include tearing down idolatrous worship sites (Dt. 12:2-3), engaging in idolatrous worship (Dt. 12:4-7), being lured into idolatry by the Canaanites (Dt. 12:29-31), false prophets and soothsayers that encourage idolatrous worship (Dt. 13:2-6), neighbors who lure you into idolatry (13:7-12), and entire communities that give themselves over the idolatry (Dt. 13:13-19). The passages about food and eating discuss sacrificial offerings (Dt. 12:12-16 and 15:19-20), agricultural tithes (Dt. 12:17-18 and 14:23), permissible food (Dt. 12:20ff), and a reiteration of the standards of kashrut (chapter 14).

Why do these two themes -- food and idolatry -- predominate, and why are they interwoven throughout the parashah? Perhaps one message here is to beware the idolatry of food.

By now, we all know the sobering and alarming facts: the CDC reports that 34% of American adults are obese (not just overweight, but obese) and 17% of American children (ages 2-19) are obese as well. The increase in these numbers from 1985-2010 (just 15 years) is staggering -- around 25%. There is a corresponding increase in eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, binging. It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder. (Those suffering from an eating disorder need quality medical care. If this is you, please seek help or allow someone who loves you to help you find it.)

We eat for nutrition. We eat for celebration. But not only nutrition and celebration.

Lucretius, the 1st century Roman poet and philosopher, said, “What is food to one, is to others bitter poison.” We overeat when we feel stress, upset, overwhelmed, depressed, sadness, bored, low on energy. We overeat due to a sense of deprivation, or self-hatred, or to please others, or addiction.

Our reasons for eating -- and overeating -- are many, varied, subtle, and sometimes unconscious. As Molly Wizenberg wisely observed, “When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring father and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.” (A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, emphasis mine.)

But how is overeating idolatry? Torah speaks of idolatry as the practice of worshiping sticks and statues. (That’s not what ancient peoples were doing, but that’s another topic altogether.) Idolatry takes many forms, but it boils down to regarding any object, activity, or pursuit with such adoration and devotion that it has power over us and surpasses our obligations to God. For some of us, food has become an idolatry.

I have known food-as-poison, and food-as-idolatry, especially processed sugar, and most especially chocolate. I admit to looking at a few slices of pizza remaining after dinner and saying to my family, “I don’t want any leftovers.” (What on earth was I thinking?)

Jewish tradition places a premium on health. Midrash tells us that Hillel would often take leave of his students, saying, “I’m going to perform a meritorious act.” It turns out Hillel was headed for the bathhouse. When his students expressed astonishment, he said, “If the statues erected to kings in theaters and circuses are washed and scrubbed, how more should we, who are created in the divine image and likeness, take care of our bodies, for as Torah says, For in the image of God He made man (Genesis 9:6). (Leviticus Rabbah 34:3) Our bodies are a gift from God: it is life itself.

The health problems associated with excess weight and obesity are legion and could even include a diminished lifespan. Yet we need to eat, and food is ubiquitous. There is no easy fix.

Experts tell us that the key is often a wholesale change in attitude and priorities. Isn’t that what a life of Torah is all about: retooling our attitudes and priorities. This takes time and effort. In my case, I had to rethink what food was going to be in my life, and reset my priorities. I don’t pretend it’s easy. It’s a struggle. But for many of us, it is a choice within our control. I was determined to choose blessing, and not curse, and to treat myself with the divine middot (attributes) of compassion and patience.

Our parashah ends with a holiday calendar of the three pilgrimage festivals, beginning presciently with Pesach, the festival of liberation and redemption. How do we re-enact the redemption? No surprise here: we eat. But it’s no sumptuous, calorie-laden buffet. We eat unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and the paschal sacrifice.
Observe the month of Aviv… You shall slaughter the Passover sacrifice… You shall not eat anything leavened with it… You shall cook and eat it at the place that the Lord your God will choose… After eating unleavened bread six days… (Deuteronomy 16:1-8)
And finally, the parashah ends on a note of blessing:
Three times a year -- on the Feast of unleavened Bread, on the Feast of Weeks, and on the Feast of Booths -- all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place that He will choose. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed, but each with his own gift, according to the blessing that the Lord your God has bestowed upon you. (Deuteronomy 16:16-17)
It is a blessing to have good, nutritious, affordable, plentiful food. It is also a blessing to be able to say no to food in order to say yes to health and well-being.

Naomi got pizza tonight, to the delight of her father, brothers, and sister-in-law. There are leftovers in the refrigerator.

© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Monday, August 15, 2011

God's SAT? / Parshat Ekev

Ekev begins, as do many sections of Torah, with the familiar reward and punishment trop: if you obey My covenant, you will be blessed with fertility in field and womb, health, and military success. Tacked on is an oft-heard warning not to engage in the idol worship of the people of Canaan. Then we find this curious claim:
Remember the long way that Adonai your God has made you travel in the wilderness these past forty years, in order to test you (l’na’so’t’kha – the root is nun-samech-hey) by hardships to learn what was in your hearts: whether you would keep the divine commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
It’s a test? The Israelites’ 40 years of hunger, thirst, privation, and fear is a test?

In Numbers chapter 14 we are told that the 40 years in the wilderness is a punishment for the Israelites’ failure to believe Joshua and Caleb, over and above the other ten spies, that they could take possession of Eretz Yisrael.
None of the people who have seen My Glory and the signs that I have performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and who have tested (va’y’na’su – again the root is nun-samech-hey) Me these many times and have disobeyed Me, shall see the land that I promised on oath to their fathers; none of those who spurn Me shall see it… You shall bear your punishment for 40 years… (Numbers 14:22-23, 34a)
Here, it is the Israelites who have tried and tested God, and they are being punished for it.
We do find support for the notion that God administers the SAT (Supernal Aptitude Test) to Israel on numerous occasions. Three days after crossing the Reed Sea:
The people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water and the water became sweet. There [God] made for them a fixed rule, and there [God] tested them (ni’sa’hu – you’ve already guessed that the root is nun-samech-hey). He said, “If you will heed the Lord your God diligently, doing what is upright in [God’s] sight, giving ear to [God’s] commandments and keeping all [God’s] laws, then I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians for I the Lord am your healer. (Exodus 15:24-26)
Similarly, we are told in Exodus 16:4 that the manna raining down from heaven is also a test (a’na’se’nu – yes, again) to determine if the Israelites will obey God’s instructions. Yet again in next week’s parashah, Deuteronomy 13:4, God is testing Israel. If God knows Israel so well, what need is there to test them? Clearly, God is not omniscient and cannot know how the Israelites will respond under stress.

God also tests individuals. An entire book is devoted to God testing Job.

Unquestionably the most disturbing and bewildering instance in Torah is the Akedah. God commands Abraham to offer up his beloved son Isaac (Genesis, chapter 22, ni-sah). The Rabbis are deeply troubled. Why would a good God subject an amazingly loyal devotee to such a horror? Regardless of how this test turns out, Abraham will suffer grievously. (Isaac is a whole other subject.) Yet if God knows Abraham will offer his son, what point is there to testing him? In midrash Bereishit Rabbah, we find:
It is written: The Lord seeks out the righteous man, but loathes the wicked one who loves injustice (Psalm 11:5). Rabbi Yonatan said: A potter does not test the quality of fragile vessels, which he has but to strike once and they break. Which does he test? The sturdy vessels, because even if he strikes them several times they do not break. Thus the Holy One, blessed be God, does not test the wicked, but rather the righteous, as it is said: The Lord seeks out [the Hebrew can be understood to mean “examines”] the righteous man.

It is also written: God put Abraham to the test. (Genesis 22:1). Rabbi Yosi b. Chanina said: When a flax worker knows that his flax is good, the more he pounds it, the better it becomes, and when he beats it, it becomes finer; but when he knows his flax is not good, he has but to pound it once and the fiber breaks. Thus the Holy One, blessed be God, does not test the wicked, but rather the righteous, as it is said: The Lord seeks out the righteous man.

Rabbi Eleazar said: This may be compared to a landlord who has two cows, one robust and one weak. On which would he put the yoke, not on the robust one? Thus the Holy One, blessed be God, tests the righteous, as it is written, The Lord seeks out the righteous man. (Bereishit Rabbah 32:3)
I have separated the three opinions expressed so we can examine them separately. At first glance they seem to say the same thing, but upon closer examination, we find an escalating pattern: R. Yonatan claims that God tests only the righteous because God knows the wicked will fail. R. Yosi b. Chanina goes a step further, claiming that testing the righteous makes them better and stronger. R. Eleazar goes even further, telling us that God requires the testing of the righteous (presumably to serve as a model for others).

Gevalt! What kind of theology is this?

Four possibilities come to mind. One explanation is that the Rabbis truly believe that God inflicts hardship and suffering on good people in order test their mettle and be assured God has chosen the right person.

A second interpretation is that God tests the righteous so they can serve as an example of continuing loyalty to God despite their suffering. Job is Exhibit A. (However, this sounds less like a test and more like isurim shel ahavah / chastisements of love, discussed at length in b. Berakhot 6).

A third possibility – at least in some cases – is that the notion of a test explains why good people suffer. It’s a test. We just don’t know the ultimate purpose of the test.

Are you surprised to know that I find all three explanations objectionable?

Allow me to offer a fourth interpretation. There is no morally reasonable explanation for why good people suffer; yet we know it happens all the time. Cancer, earthquakes, and drunk drivers do not carefully consider which victims they will strike. Our job is to see the tzelem Elohim – the image of God, the divine spark – in the other and do our utmost to heal them.

But how does the victim make sense of his/her suffering? What do we tell ourselves about undeserved terror, pain, loss? Some years ago I had severe chronic back pain for nearly five years. There are many who have had far worse pain, I’m sure, and I am fortunate that I finally healed. However, during those years I had to decide how I would think about the pain that was my constant unbidden companion. A dear friend and colleague recommending that I consider the pain atonement for whatever I had done wrong and failed to do right. That didn’t work. Instead, I chose to regard the pain as a test. Not as a test from God because I surely do not believe God visits affliction on people for any reason, but as my test of myself: Could I be patient? Could I refrain from complaining? Could I continue to do what I do without allowing the pain to control my life? Could I retain a sense of humor? Could I live positively and constructively with this forever if I didn’t heal? I was the tester; God was a source of strength. I didn’t choose the pain, but as long as I had it, I could choose the role it would play in my life.

Perhaps it is the Israelites’ perception that God is testing them. As a test, they learn much about themselves, including just how much they can endure. The verse with which I began this drash is followed by this:
[God] subjected you to the hardship of hunger and then gave you manna to eat, which neither you nor your ancestors had ever known, in order to teach you that a human being does not live on bread alone, but that one may live on anything that Adonai decrees. (Deuteronomy 8:3)
The Israelites learn two things during their 40 years in the Wilderness, just as I did during those five years: First, they learn to live on less. The quality of life is not a simple equation, but rather a complex of factors. It is often the case that we can live with less without diminishing the overall quality, and certainly not the meaning, of our lives. (An excellent message in a world of rapidly depleted resources.) So maybe it’s not God’s SAT but the Israelites’ (and mine): a Supernal Aptitude Test to determine if they (and I) can overcome hardship by looking above and beyond.

The second thing learned relates to the first: the importance of gratitude. When we can feel grateful for what we do have, what we don’t have begins to take a back seat, and privation and even pain are not experienced quite as acutely. If we can count our blessings rather than tally our pain, life is easier and better.

© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Shema: take two / Parshat V'etchanan

I attended a junior high school run by a harsh autocrat who loved rules, discipline, and punishment. When friends of my parents arrived in the auditorium for back-to-school night a few minutes late, the principal publicly berated them and warned them that their child had better never be late to his school. The principal was a tyrant. The rules struck me as arbitrary and often formulated simply to impose control. I resisted being controlled and consequently often found myself on the receiving end of school “discipline.” On one particularly memorable occasion, I was sent to the vice-principal for some infraction or another (probably passing notes in class). The vice-principal delivered a 30-minute canned speech in which I was likened to a budding juvenile delinquent, and then threatened to send me to reform school in upstate Connecticut.

I emerged from junior high school with a strong disdain for mindless rules, and a distinct rebellious streak. Within a month of entering high school, I was summoned to the vice principal’s office because I didn’t show up for a study hall in the typing room (no desk space to get any work done; instead I went to the English Department resource and library room). I told the vice principal that after my experience in junior high school I was no longer willing to obey pointless and absurd rules for which I could see no good purpose, and the one I had violated was Exhibit A in that regard. He was quiet and thoughtful for a moment and then asked what my criteria were for following rules. That was an easy question to answer because I’d given it much thought: I was willing to follow rules that promoted order and learning in the school, and respected the person and property of everyone there. There was a long silence. He smiled and said, “Good enough. I’ll support you.” And he was true to his word for all four years of high school.

The Torah presents (in part) a world of strict rules accompanied by harsh punishment. From parshat Etchanan alone:
And now, O Israel, give heed to the laws and rules that I am instructing you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You shall not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you. (Deuteronomy 4:1-3)

This is the teaching that Moses set before the Israelites: these are the decrees, laws, and rules that Moses addressed to the people of Israel, after they had left Egypt… (Deuteronomy 4:44-45)

Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them: Here, O Israel, the laws and rules that I proclaim to you this day! Study them and observe them faithfully! (Deuteronomy 5:1. The second version of the Decalogue – the Ten Commandments – follows.)

And this is the Instruction – the laws and the rules – that the Lord your God has commanded [me] to impart to you, to be observed in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you, your children, and your children’s children may revere the Lord your God and follow, as long as you live, all His laws and commandments that I enjoin upon you, the end that you may long endure. (Deuteronomy 6:1-2)
Torah tells us again and again that the purpose of God’s commandments is to ensure that the core of the society forming in the Wildness (to be transplanted to Eretz Yisrael) is justice tempered by compassion. Much in the Torah elevates our souls: laws that require and inspire compassion and decency, generosity and honesty. At the same time, examining the laws of the Torah at a remove of more than three millennia, we can easily find problematic laws. Stoning a shabbat violator, permitting slavery, executing the women and children of those defeated in battle, shaatnez, animal sacrifice, the second-class status of women, prohibition against homosexual behavior… Many laws strike us as cruel, primitive, misogynistic, arbitrary.

Committed Jews struggle with the desire to live fully in covenant with God and the community, without ignoring or dismissing moral and social values we have come to embrace such as freedom, human rights, egalitarianism and much more. Living in the tension between our sacred text and moral values assures that will always ponder deeply, re-interpret, and struggle with God and tradition. After all, we are Yisrael, who strive with God. But the struggle sure is like running a race without a finish line.

Sometimes, however, it’s helpful to read our sacred texts – especially the ones we’re sure we know well – through a different lens. Parshat V’etchanan includes the first paragraph of Shema, which many of us have recited by heart in Hebrew since we were youngsters.
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is your God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on yours gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Later generations sought to understand this paragraph concretely:
  • Heart: the heart is the seat of our intellect and passions, which we should harness to serve God alone.
  • Soul: Rashi tells us this means our very life, “even if He should take your life.”
  • Might: our physical and financial means.
  • Children: pass tradition on to the next generation.
  • Lie down and rise up: recite Shema evening and morning.
  • Bind [these words] to your hand and forehead: tefillin.
  • Inscribe [these words] on your doorposts: mezuzah.
If we strip away the concrete interpretations that have been imposed on this paragraph, we can see another dimension:
  • Love God with your heart, soul, and might – every aspect of your being.
  • Internalize and assimilate this love.
  • Make it so much a part of your being that your children inherit it.
  • Make it part of you at all times and everywhere you go – fundamental to who you are continually becoming.
  • Make it the way you act in the world (your hand) and the way you think, perceive, and respond emotionally (your forehead).
Torah depicts a powerful God who commands, rewards, punishes, and manipulates. The God of Torah is coercive and demanding. But the God of my experience, whom I worship, is nothing like this. God has no supernatural powers, does not threaten, coerce or reward. God is the ground of Being and makes possible the dynamic becoming of everything in the universe through the creativity, novelty, and freedom implicit in evolution. God experiences everything we experience. God does not foresee the future because it does not yet exist. God’s omniscience lies in the possibilities, and lures us to make the right choices. Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t – and in each case, God shares our experience and awaits our next choice with a lure for us to decide rightly and morally. The fabulous drama of evolution – in which emergent phenomena enter the universe and freedom foments spiritual growth – are the gifts God gives us so that we can be God’s eyes, ears, and hands in the world, reaching out to touch, love, and heal one another.

Read this way, the first paragraph of Shema is not only about adherence to a strict code of laws and regulations. Rather, it might read this way: God alone is the ground of Existence and Becoming in the universe. Therefore, everything is part of a larger tapestry whose threads are interwoven inextricably together. Raise your children to understand this so that their lives, too, are a blessing. Everything you do – your thoughts and feelings, your very life, your strengths and abilities to affect change – all will have a ripple effect in this universe. Know this at all times and in all places, lest you separate yourself from the universe. Remind yourself night and day – as you lie down at night and consider what you have become that day, and as you rise up in the morning and ponder what you will do and become that day. Let God’s love and your continual becoming ground you always – let it be your home base.

As a community, we adopt standards of behavior and observance that reflect our moral values, our sense of purpose, and our need to be a community connected to one another. Torah’s authority comes not only from God who met Moses on Sinai, but from hundreds of generations of Jews who affirmed, cherished, lived loyally by, and interpreted its sacred words. Every generation reaffirms Torah and sets standards through a process of halakhic inquiry informed by the best of science, psychology, sociology, and ethics so that the mitzvot as we understand and interpret them continue to impart meaning, purpose, and communal coherence – and help us become the very best we can become. The Shema has been, and remains, the core we come home to.

© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What are we doing today? / Tisha B'Av

Today is the ninth of Av on the Hebrew calendar, a day of mourning marked by fasting for many Jews, but not for all Jews. In our time, darkened by the shadow of the Holocaust yet illuminated by light of the State of Israel, some find renewed meaning in Tisha B’Av and others believe it to be no longer relevant. How people decide is a matter of what Tisha B’Av means to them.

Our Rabbis tell us that five calamities befell the Jewish people in the ninth day of Av: The decree was issued that the generation that left Israel would wander in the wilderness and die there. In 586 B.C.E., the Babylonians destroyed the Temple of Solomon on the 9th of Av. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans on the 9th of Av in 70 C.E. The last battle of the Bar Kochba Rebellion was put down by Rome at Beitar in 135 C.E. On the 9th of Av the following year, Jerusalem was ploughed over.

That’s a lot of tragedies. Some argue that keeping the fast of Tisha B’Av assures that we will view Jewish history through a lachrymose lens, focusing excessively on tragedies. Some say it’s a sacred obligation to “remember” and we must never “forget.”

In reality, however, the idea that we either “remember” or “forget” is simplistic. It doesn’t work that way.

There is no forgetting. Everything we experience becomes part of who we are and how we think and feel, and influences the decisions we make, even if we don’t consciously remember a specific event. Every experience makes an indelible mark – however small. Every experience shapes us and is therefore incorporated into who we are continuously becoming.

At the same time there is no remembering in the sense of running a videotape in our heads. Neuroscientists tell us that our brains are not wired for that. Rather, we construct “memories” from the bits and pieces of experiences we log in, sort, retrieve, and patch together to build “memories.” How often have you been sure of a memory only to learn that it was actually a different person, or a different time, or a different place? How often have you combined elements of different events, forging a new “fact” of your past? We all do this – this is how our minds function.

There is no complete forgetting and no pure remembering. Rather, there is the quintessential human activity of making meaning. We humans are meaning making machines. We take in every experience, interpret it to derive meaning, and store it accordingly. We catalogue these bits and pieces and call on them when we need to explain a new experience. We construct narratives that often barely resembled actual events but elaborately bespeak our place and purpose in the world.

Our Rabbis constructed such a “memory” about the destruction of the Second Temple and recorded it in the Babylonian Talmud (Gittin 56). The narrative tells us that the destruction of the Temple came about because of a series of small, seemingly inconsequential events that snowballed into a massive catastrophe. Many people were involved; each could have headed off the disaster by taking action and doing the right thing at a critical moment. Tragically none did. Most guilty of all, accordingly the Rabbis, was not the Romans (surprise!) but R. Zechariah b. Abkulas, whose unconscionable and cowardly passivity earned him his colleagues’ contempt. Ironically, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai who could be accused of acting cowardly himself (in the last days of Jerusalem, he had himself spirited out of Jerusalem hidden in a coffin) is the hero who saves a remnant and starts a disciple circle in Yavneh that saves Judaism. Could it be historically accurate that one rabbi is responsible for the cataclysm of 70 C.E. and another is responsible for the salvation of Judaism?

The story does not tell us what actually happened in 70 C.E. It tells us what the events of 70 C.E. meant to the Rabbis of Babylonia looking back from the perspective of several centuries and many experiences later. Certainly the Rabbis saw themselves as capable of having great influence on events. But there is more:
  • In Torah we find the power to interpret our world and find direction for our lives. In Torah, we find inspiration and courage to do the right thing at the critical moment.
  • Our every word and action can have far-reaching effects; we must measure our words and consider how our actions – or failures to act – will play out, and make every effort to do the right thing. Much is at stake.
  • Relationships quickly unravel when small tears in the fabric are not mended and allowed to propagate. (It’s no coincidence that this story is included in the tractate about divorce.)
  • Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
  • It’s always better to accomplish something small rather than nothing at all. Often we cannot reach the goals we set for ourselves because they are idealistic (that’s good – they inspire us), but accomplishing a portion is worthwhile.
Tisha B’Av is not about history. While there are those who yearn for a return to the sacrificial cult, most of us believe that the Rabbinic tradition that emerged in the aftermath of the Destruction – and could only have arisen because of the Destruction – is a far better expression of Torah. Yet the constructed memory – the meaning – of Tisha B’Av continues to resonate with many. Whether or not they fast and recite kinot, the “memory” of Tisha B’Av – that is, the meaning we have ascribed to it – continues as part of us.

© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman