Wanna Trade?: 2 Kinds of Tisha b’Av Tears

Wanna Trade?: 2 Kinds of Tisha b’Av Tears

I once had a neighbor whose life was in shambles.

Nava’s on-again, off-again boyfriend had finally flown the coop for good. She was living off of occasional unemployment checks and charity that barely kept food in her cabinets and a roof over her head. She hadn’t spoken with her parents or two brothers in more than a decade, even though they all lived a short busride away. And she spent most Shabbat meals (when we didn’t invite her) in the company of her best friend, her miniature poodle, Shuki.

One morning, a few weeks after my second child was born, Nava and I were waiting together for the elevator. She was giving me a short update on her life, the latest report on her no-good, disappearing act of a boyfriend, some bitter reminiscences about her dysfunctional family, her plans for her fast-approaching 40th birthday. And then she paused.

She nodded towards baby Hallel in her carriage, and then towards the locked door of my apartment, and with an ironic cocked eyebrow and half-upturned lip she said “Welcome to my life. Wanna Trade?”

Before that moment, if you’d asked me how I was feeling, the honest answer would have been overweight and overwhelmed and as weepy as a woman surfing a tidal wave of post-partum hormones.

But, at that moment, after Nava’s “Wanna Trade,” my life suddenly appeared so different. Through my neighbor’s eyes, I saw my life as it really was.

Every year, my teacher Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, teaches us the importance of crying on Tisha b’Av.

She explains, year after year, that on Tisha b’Av we should cry for two things. And every year this shakes me up.

First of all, we should cry for what we don’t have. For the marriage, for the children, for the financial situation, for the job, for the home, for the life that bears so little resemblance to the one you dreamed of when you stood in that white dress underneath the chuppah with your husband.

Secondly, Rabbanit Yemima explains, every Tisha b’Av, you should cry, as well, for what you do have, for your husband, your children, your aging parents, your home, your health, your life.

As Nomi Shemer sang:

על הדבש ועל העוקץ,
על המר והמתוק
על בתנו התינוקת
שמור אלי הטוב

שמור אלי על זה הבית,
על הגן, על החומה,
מיגון, מפחד פתע
וממלחמה

על כל אלה, על כל אלה
שמור נא לי אלי הטוב

Over the honey and the sting
Over the bitter and the sweet
Over our baby daughter
Please watch over them, dear God

Please, God, watch over this home,
Over this garden, over this wall.
Guard us from sadness, from sudden fears,
From war.

Over all of these, all of these,
Please guard us, dear God.

As Rabbanit Yemima tells us every year, in this world we own nothing. In this world, we are just renters who could find ourselves on the street at a moment’s notice, just like the generation of the Destruction, who only learned to cry for what they had after it was going up in flames.

This year, let’s choose to cry for and to thank God for the blessings that fill our lives today instead.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Samat Jain

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10 comments

  1. Rishe Deitsch

    That was beautiful, Chana. Thank you. A poignant reminder to appreciate what we have.

    • That was so beautiful! Like you, that comment caused me to reevaluate my own life. I am so grateful. The poem was gorgeous.

  2. Thank you. What a perfect analogy with which to go into Tisha b’Av.

  3. Thank you for this very important Tisha B’Av reminder and for the acknowledgment of the complexity of life–sometimes the things we do have and don’t have are the same things, just looked upon from a different angle!

  4. So poignant. Thank you.

  5. Thank you. An eye opener.
    Perfect to get ready for Tisha B’Av to collect my thoughts.
    I wish for your friend Nava, her scales of luck and Bracha to tip toward the good!
    Have an easy and meaningful fast!!
    May we see the Bait Ha Mikdash rebuild soon!

  6. thank you have an easy and meaningful fast.
    I took my kids to the kotel today so we could all feel what was missing, why don’t we do that more often?

  7. elisheva

    Thank you for linking to this again on FB. I remember being moved by it last year and I appreciate having another chance to be moved again.

  8. Thank you for this beautiful piece. I need to remember to revisit it for next year’s Tisha B’av… may we merit to not need it, and to be rejoicing instead. I often have these moments where I stop and realize how blessed I am on the basis of someone else looking in. Sad that sometimes that is what it takes.

  9. “Wanna trade?”

    “Why, Nava? Your life is exactly the way Hashem wants it to be. I wouldn’t want to take that away from you, that’s your special gift from Him. All you have to do is open it….”

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