I paid a visit to an orthopedist this week after complaining too much that my foot hurt. I was certain that I had a sports injury. Surprisingly, the doctor gave me the all clear, but he also told me, “Rabbi you’re not twelve years old anymore.” He then continued, “It doesn’t get any better from here.” I walked out of his office shaking my head in disbelief, because while I knew his prognosis of my ankle was correct, I was cognizant that our tradition teaches that there is hope for the days ahead.
We are about to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem thousands of years ago. It is one of the saddest days on the Jewish calendar. We read Eicha, the Book of Lamentations, while we sit on the floor in darkness. We do not sing our prayers, but rather we chant. Yet, we continue to be a people of hope. We read in our Torah on Tisha B’av, “You should know this day and take to your heart that God is God in heaven and above, there is no other.” This sentence makes it into our daily liturgy of the Aleinu, to proclaim the daily presence of God in our lives.
Rabbeinu Bachya teaches that it is a Biblical commandment to actively contemplate the existence of God. We can only do this by observing God’s deeds and awesome feats and by appreciating creation. We cannot just know these facts, but we must show this belief in our behavior. Tisha B’av is a crucial moment in our consciousness. Will we accept the destruction around us? Will we accept that “it will never get better?” Or, will we listen to the prophet Zechariah who calls our people assirei Tikvah, prisoners of hope, bound up by the obligation that tomorrow must be better than today.
The choice is ours.