Community Prepares for Tisha B’Av

Rabbi Rory Katz
Rabbi Rory Katz (Cobalt Photography)

Tisha B’Av will begin the evening of July 29 this year. The day is intended to commemorate many of the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people throughout history, said Rabbi Rory Katz of Chevrei Tzedek Congregation, from the destruction of the First and Second Temples to the Holocaust. In particular, she said, it focuses on “tragedies that are a result of baseless hatred … which is understood to be a core piece of the reason for what caused the temples to be destroyed.”

Normally, Chevrei Tzedek observes the day by reading the Book of Lamentations during an evening service, said Katz. In past years, she added, the congregation has combined the service with social justice activities aimed at addressing important social issues.”

Due to continuing COVID-19 concerns, Chevrei Tzedek’s Tisha B’Av service this year will be online, Katz said, followed by a number of discussion groups on how the synagogue can perform anti-racist work in Baltimore.

Rabbi Dr. Eli Yoggev
Rabbi Dr. Eli Yoggev (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, courtesy of Yoggev)

Meanwhile, Beth Tfiloh Congregation plans to have the core of its services in an outdoors ceremony at its shul, and then the Book of Lamentations and the Kinot, supplicatory prayers recited on Tisha B’Av, will be done over Zoom. Because a minyan would not be required, the shul wanted to preclude anyone congregating indoors for an extended period of time, said Beth Tfiloh’s Rabbi Dr. Eli Yoggev. The Kinot will also be explained in depth, and the synagogue will provide a link to the Orthodox Union’s Tisha B’Av webcast. This year, the Orthodox Union’s webcast will be delivered by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the executive vice president, emeritus of the Orthodox Union, and Rabbi Steven Weil, the Orthodox Union’s senior managing director.

When asked what Tisha B’Av meant to him personally, Yoggev pointed to a talk he had delivered in 2018. “Let’s restructure our goals, focus on the big prize, dream big, hope big and use the mourning and sadness over the current state — on all four fronts — to propel us to do our part in hastening the redemption.”

To Katz, Tisha B’Av represents an opportunity for the public expression of grief and sadness. This sort of opportunity is not seen enough within American culture, she said.

“Sadness is not always a feeling that gets a lot of public recognition,” Katz said. “American culture prefers happiness or anger, and Tisha B’Av gives space for sadness, and acknowledges that there’s power in feeling loss and expressing loss in public settings.”

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