Tradition & Innovation

Tisha b'Av: The Temple of the Earth

From a Jewish prayer group
wooden gate between two stone pillars

In the year 70 CE, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem, and on the ninth day of the month of Av, the Temple was set on fire. This was the beginning of the exile. Yet our Sages, in teaching the story, do not lay the blame on Rome and its Empire. Instead, they point to the corrupt society prevalent at the time as being the cause of the collapse of the way of life.

For the following 2,000 years Jews have marked this day using traditional ways of mourning: fasting, sitting on the floor, and reading from the book of Lamentations. Over the centuries with awful experiences of persecution and horror repeated many times over, Tisha b'Av has become a day for mourning all the tragedies.

A number of years ago a small group of us living here in Safed, Israel, chose to use these same traditional ways of mourning, of sitting on the floor, of fasting and reading from Lamentations to mourn the destruction, not of the Temple of Jerusalem of 2,000 years ago but the Temple of now, the Temple of the Earth, our beloved planet, Gaia. The causes of destruction of the ecology of our home are exactly the same as those which caused the destruction of the Temple of 2,000 years ago. Greed, senseless hatred, corruption, putting materialism before all else... Coming from all backgrounds we sat on the floor in tears and in silence, fasting... remembering precious trees cut down, wild areas paved over, fish that die deaths of poison.... We looked at the suffering of the indigenous peoples whose habitats whose homes and ways of life are being destroyed. We read from the book of Lamentations and cried our own lament for the animals who can no longer suckle their young or who see their young perish. We read the Lament from Joanna Macey's book World as Lover World as Self.

Mourning in a ritualized way gives us permission to feel our pain and stops our grief becoming denial. It enables us to see how we are perpetrators of the destruction as well as victims of it.

The Sages teach: "All those who mourn Jerusalem will merit to see her rejoicing." We look forward to the time that our unconditional love will help the transformation come about when we will see with our own eyes the rejoicing of the earth and all who dwell in it.



NEW! Set of 18 Blessing Cards for Major Jewish Holidays