We are a people who have suffered enormously. Given our experience with suffering and its regular inclusion in our calendar, Tisha B'Av ought to be easy to commemorate. But it is set at a time when we are most disinclined to mourn. Thus, Tisha B'Av becomes the most challenging day in the Jewish year, the one whose spirit is hardest to feel.
Leo Baeck Temple in Bel Air hosted an unusual commemoration of Kristallnacht, the event that is often considered the beginning of the Holocaust. Instead of focusing on mourning, the gathering last weekend was marked by raucous joy and a sense of reunification.
The central symbolism was provided by guest of honor Olga Grilli, who fled Nazi-occupied Europe as an 11-year-old. On Saturday, she saw once more and touched the Torah scroll from the shul of her Czechoslovakian hometown. She had last attended this temple as a child.
Lubavitch rabbis from across the United States and 40 countries launched the 100th birthday commemoration of their spiritual leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, by marking the six-month anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Tisha B'Av, the day of mourning in commemoration of the destruction of the two Temples, is notable for at least two reasons. For one, it may be the only holiday that Hallmark hasn't designed a card for. And it seems to be the one holiday that most Jews have heard of, but few seem to know much about. As with quarks and RNA and Rothko, we can drop "Tisha B'Av" into a conversation, hoping all the while that we won't be asked to actually explain it.