Why Tisha B’Av is arguably the saddest day on the Jewish calendar


Betsy Schmidt, Special For The Jewish Light

We have all been through so much these past 2 years. Not just Covid, but multiple mass shootings, racial and political tensions, the economy, and the destruction caused by changing weather patterns. Loss of life and place, loss of our daily life-patterns, and loss of our sense of “normal” have afflicted us all to varying degrees.

So when we read this piece by Rabbi Andrea Goldstein about a holiday happening this weekend, “Tish B’av”, it resonated deeply. Judaism often gives us ways to collectively express our deep sorrows in a way that we cannot achieve on our own.

This week, as we approach Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the month of Av), arguably the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, we note Judaism’s wisdom in singling out one day a year to note our collective grief. Collective grief is different than individual grief. It is not as personal or intense, but it alerts us to a sense of sadness that does affect us, often at an unconscious level. We are able to sense, if only for a short time, the pain of our ancestors or the pain of those on the other side of the world whose lives have been forever altered by war or families who have lost loved ones to gun terror or COVID.

An important principle in Judaism and mindfulness is that all living things are connected with each other. This means that our joys and our sufferings, our anxiety and our equanimity, all have a way of infringing upon one another, whether we like it or not. One modern way to view Tisha B’Av is that it is one day, bounded by time, to acknowledge a collective sense of suffering that is a part of us all.

This week at the Jewish Mindfulness Center of St. Louis we will be looking at the wisdom of the Book of Lamentations (the traditional text read on Tisha B’Av, which begins the evening of August 6 and how it might lead to the strengthening of our practice and our faith. As always, we hope that you can join us.


Rabbi Andrea Goldstein, Director of the Jewish Mindfulness Center of St. Louis