Tisha b’Av, Again

Through these three weeks,
growing in our apprehension,
we’ve waited.
Waited as the sun set for the sun to rise.
We went to sleep each night waiting –
still with confidence –
knowing that the same setting sun’s light
would brighten the morning sky,
overcome the darkness of each night.
And we would see that we were
alive again
and that You, HaShem, would
be here with us for one more
of Your creations: Another day. Yom ekhad.

The same sun sets once more tonight,
but do we dare
keep that same confidence
in its rising again in the morning,
bringing breath back to our lungs,
its light back to our eyes?

After 586 and 70 –
After 1492 and 1939 –
After 2018?

By the rivers –
homeless, under bridges,
weeping with no tears left to cry,
our mouths open, gaping, stone tongues dry as sand.

Between the Tigris and the Euphrates,
Between the Genil and the Thames,
Between the Allegheny and the Monongahela.

In Babylon, in Spain, In England,
Ukraine, California,
Poland, Pittsburgh.

O Jerusalem!
We see the plows,
we recoil at the crackle,
the gunshots deafen us.

We feel the mud drying on our shoeless feet,
the sickening rocking of the boats.
We are cooked by the flames.
We are ripped open by the bullets.

As this day begins its dark descent
our tongues go dry again,
our ears lose the sound of the harp strings,
displaced by shards of glass and metal casings.

Underground, underfoot,
sisters and brothers named and nameless,
gone – taken – reminding us of what –
as we wonder and wander
these desolate corners of our souls
unable to remember or forget
or even muster a greeting of shalom.

Yes, I believe with a perfect faith ….
But do I, have I – really?
If so, then why these
sunless days through centuries
of days and nights coming again and again and again,
covering us with this darkness –
this airless suffocation –
this insatiable hunger?

And where, HaShem, are You
as we ask again these unanswerable questions
every year on this day?
Have You hidden, or have we hidden Your Face
from us?
Either way – we are terrified.

We have no strings to wrap
around our fingers for our Shema today.
And we can’t tap the leather boxes
holding the treasure of Your word
as we recite Ashrei.

Here we are –
what’s left of us –
sitting together on
the ash heap of the ages
with no light to see
even a handful of its grit and grime.

Do we need this again, Eternal One?
Must we face this day without You?

Dare we beg of You – as we push ourselves
through these hours, that
if sunset comes again tomorrow at this time,
please, O Holy One of Blessing
return to us again with it?
So that we may sing once more –
Adonai li, v’ lo ira?

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