July 22nd is the start of the Hebrew month of Av. This month includes one of the lowest points of the Jewish calendar year and one of the highest. Describing it as a rollercoaster seems more apt this year than most.
Av starts with nine days of mourning, leading up to Tisha B’Av, the second 24-hour fast day (the first being Yom Kippur) in the Jewish year. Tisha B’Av is literally the 9th day of the month of Av. It is a day of abject mourning in the Jewish tradition, commemorating the anniversary of the destruction of the first Temple in 586 BCE by the Babylonians, and the second Temple in 70 CE by the Romans.
Less than one week later, though, we celebrate Tu B’av, the 15th of the month–often referred to as Jewish Valentine’s Day, when in ancient times girls would dance in the vineyards to find their future husbands, and today is celebrated by singing and dancing and dining. It’s a minor holiday, but one that is marked by joy and love.
Av is a month marked by a shift from deep sadness to ecstasy. In any given year this is a difficult transition. This year….. I just can’t even. Can I be more inclined to mourn and grieve? (Don’t answer that.) Can I even find the wherewithal to muster joy and happiness?
I think that’s the point. The calendar doesn’t know if any particular year is good or bad. Instead, we are reminded that life is always a mixture of good and bad. And, yes, sometimes one or the other seems to take the upper hand, but the pendulum will swing again. Having a set time to run through this gamut of emotions allows for a guided self-reflection. I plan to use Tisha B’Av to find solace for my grief in the knowledge that humanity has suffered and survived before. I will use Tu B’Av to find happiness in the enduring joy of love. I will emerge from this month with a better sense of balance, and I hope you do too.