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Tradition & Innovation

A Contemporary Kinah for Tisha B’Av

When do we lament?

I looked through all my poetry
To find one to share
As a new retelling of
Our communal lament
Back through the eyes of time
Connecting our now to
Shoah, expulsions, crusades, rebellions, destruction of the Temples
And I realized
I had not one

I practice gratitude
I promote an attitude of gratitude

But do I not see?
The vacant-eyed child in the doorframe
Strung out, vulnerable but for the loyal dog
Standing guard.
Do I not see the pregnant woman
Sleeping on the street
Begging for money to go home
But there week after week?
Do I not see
The people snatched off the street
By unmarked agents
In unmarked cars?

Do I not cry
When I hear of the overworked
Desperate health workers
Who take their own lives?
Don’t I cry when I hear of the children
torn from their parent’s arms
Put into crowded detention camps
Mistreated, malnourished, medically neglected?
Do I have tears
For the First Peoples
On their reservations
Denied the resources provided to others
To care for themselves
During a pandemic?

Do we not mourn for George Floyd,
Breanna Taylor, murdered
by those who were sworn to protect?
Do we not mourn for the brown-skinned man
Going to work in Portland
Surrounded by two, four, six, eight
Armed and dangerous men
Demanding, who are you?
Where do you come from?
Do I not mourn for my nation?
For the land of the free?
For the hopes and dreams of my youth?

I see the gerrymandering
I see the poverty
I see the homelessness
I see the substance abuse
I see the racism
I see the antisemitism
I see the sexism
I see the gun violence
I see the rise of fascism
I see the four million dead, not from a virus
But incompetence, hatred, and greed
But how often do I turn away?
How often do I retreat to my
Attitude of gratitude?

Maybe the rabbis have it all wrong
We do not
Retell the things that befell us
All on one day,
Tisha B’Av,
To comfort us
We funnel it down to one day
As a telescope
As a magnifying glass
To focus us

We cry and mourn and remember
So that we do not turn away
So that we do not walk by
So that we do not remain complacent
So that we can
Maybe
Finally
Turn away
From baseless hatred
Embrace the godliness in each person
Embrace G-d

So mourn
Mourn for today
For yesterday
For all the yesterdays
Where we did not love our neighbor as ourselves
So mourn today
Hear its call
Make tomorrow right

 

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