This is a time of mourning in the Jewish calendar. We mourn for the destruction of our holy Temple in Jerusalem, and for the many other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish nation in our history. I’ve been feeling a deep and genuine sadness, but for all the wrong reasons.
I moved away from St. Louis, my home for the past four years, last Sunday. I loved living there; I miss it terribly. I miss the Southern hospitality, the absence of traffic, the delicious tap water, the friendliness of strangers, the tree-lined streets, the amazing shul that became my home and my second family. I miss Forest Park. I miss my cozy little apartment. I even feel a bit nostalgic for the thick, oppressive heat of a St. Louis summer.
At another time of year I might allow myself to wallow in missing this place I love, but not this week. I feel guilty for being sad about moving, when there are so many real tragedies to mourn. And on a deeper level, I feel guilty for being so attached to the “home” I’ve made for myself in galus. I shouldn’t accept or enjoy my life in exile. I should have this same grief, this same homesickness, all the time – but I should be missing Eretz haKodesh, the Holy Land.
People often say that it’s so difficult to tap into the grief of Tisha b’Av because we no longer remember what it was like to have the Bais Mikdash – we don’t even know what we’re missing. This is true for me, not just regarding the Temple, but regarding the entire land of Israel. I’ve visited briefly, I’ve vacationed there, but I’ve never lived there, so though I miss it intellectually – because I know I should – I’ve never felt the painful, acute longing that I want to feel.
This year is a bit different. This year, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and heading back to my Homeland to learn Torah. Between leaving St. Louis and arriving in Israel (in three weeks!), I have no real home base – I’m floating around, feeling pretty unanchored. This is how it should be for a Jew in exile: we should feel unsettled, unstable, homeless, because we are. So instead of suppressing my feelings, I’m redirecting them. I’m allowing myself to feel the anxiety that comes with not having a permanent place of one’s own, because the next time I have a home – a place where I can unpack my bags and stay awhile – I’ll be in Israel.
I wish everyone a meaningful fast. May this be the last Tisha b’Av we mark with fasting.