Still, Tisha B’Av-ing today. If I talk about Jewish festivals, people have some idea of what I might mean, even though Jewish festivals in the Orthodox community are arguably very different to Christmas or Easter as most (i.e. not religious) Christians/post-Christians observe them. But Tisha B’Av isn’t like anything most Westerners encounter any more.
Anyway, I probably fell asleep around 3.00am last night (after the insomnia mentioned it my last post) and slept until noon. It was a struggle to get up because of depression and low blood sugar. I suffer from this every morning. I would normally try to force myself to get up and eat something to deal with this, but I wanted to fast until chatzot which is halakhic midday (the middle of the day according to Jewish law i.e. the midpoint of daylight hours, which because of British Summer Time is currently around 1.06pm). The reason for doing this is that the Tisha B’Av laws are lessened somewhat after then, so I would have fasted for the most important bit, which amounts to about two-thirds of the total. Sure enough, once I managed to eat something, I felt quite a bit better. (The only Jewish fast day I fast on in its entirety these days is Yom Kippur, because it’s dangerous to fast while taking lithium.)
Tisha B’Av is such a long, strange day. It’s a full day fast, like Yom Kippur, but Yom Kippur is spent mostly in shul (synagogue), whereas a lot of Tisha B’Av is not. Shuls do usually try to put on educational programmes in the afternoon, but even this is strange, because one is not really supposed to study Torah on Tisha B’Av, because it’s considered too enjoyable, so the educational programmes tend to be on sad moments in Jewish history, particularly the Holocaust, or on how to avoid baseless hatred and gossip (which caused the tragedies we commemorate on Tisha B’Av and are therefore considered acceptable topics for the day). Unlike Yom Kippur and other festivals, one can work, but ideally one should not if one can avoid it. And then it’s stranger for me because I’m not fasting any more because of being on lithium. When I was younger I would spend the whole day sleeping and studying acceptable (sad) religious topics. The sleeping was not good, but one can perhaps blame that partly on depression. But these days I struggle to throw myself into it so much. I think I’ve been too depressed for too much of my life to add extra misery on top.
I lay on my bed again, feeling not exactly depressed, but struggling to get involved with anything. About two and a half hours passed; I think I must have fallen asleep. When I woke up, it was late afternoon. There was a programme of talks and prayer services that was about to begin at my shul (synagogue). I had been in two minds whether to go; I now wanted to go, but felt I should do more of my CBT homework instead. Fortunately, the CBT homework was about not beating oneself up for perceived faults, so I was able to use my feelings about missing the talks as raw material for this. I did eventually get to shul for some of the later events, although I missed the talk I most wanted to go to, about the Eish Kodesh, a book that contains series of sermons given by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. I have actually read the book, so I suppose I wanted to feel that I knew what was being spoken about for once, although I can’t remember much about it and have been meaning to re-read it at some point.
So, on the whole Tisha B’Av went about as well as it could go, considering (a) I still have depression and (b) it’s Tisha B’Av and until Mashiach (the Messiah) comes, it’s going to be the most miserable day in the calendar. I didn’t spend the day angry and resentful of God, as I had been worrying I would do and I went to some stuff at shul yesterday and today. That’s probably as good as it gets.
We now have just under seven weeks to get ready for the autumn festival season…