July 30, 2009
Questioning on Tisha B’Av
On Tisha b’Av, we are given permission to ask Eicha—How. Or why. How could you do this to us, God. How could you allow so much destruction and tragedy to enter our lives. Although Jeremiah himself challenged God, these questions feel quite blasphemous. We are not supposed to ask such questions when we suffer a personal loss. So on this national day, how can we possibly question God and boldly ask Eicha?
And yet as I sit writing this, I cannot help but ask God, Eicha? Why? Today, I sat with two Holocaust survivors, as they were trying to come to terms with and understand the sudden and tragic loss of their son. As I sat with the mother, and then later sat to write a eulogy, her question kept floating up to me: Why do bad things happen to good people?
I am not sure that we will ever reach a comforting explanation to this deeply theological question. But at least for this one day of the year, on Tisha b’Av, asking eicha is entirely acceptable. And, despite the pervading, even accusing question, that Yirmiyahu asks, even the Book of Eicha ends on an optimist note, as does almost every kinnah that we read on Tisha B’Av morning.
In life tragedy sneaks up on us. But in every tragedy, we must learn how to turn eicha into the question of ayekkah. It is the question God asked of Adam and Eve in sefer Bereishit. Where are you? How can you live life as a truly good person, and contribute to making this world a better place.
You see, questions and questioning is part of being Morethodox. We challenge, seek, and then challenge again. But within every question, we must look deep within ourselves and challenge ourselves with the very same questions that we ask of God.