Tisha B’av in 2020
The Saddest Jewish Holiday
Author: Madeleine Eggen
Tisha B’av is known as one of the saddest holidays in Judaism. On other fasting holidays, it is customary to wish one another “tzom kal,” or a good fast, however on Tisha B’av, there is no greeting at all. This holiday is for mourning, stemming from the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. However, in 2020, it takes on new meaning and practices.
In the midst of a global pandemic, the sense of communal mourning is less prevalent than usual. Services had to be conducted virtually, or outdoors with masks and social distancing. Many people, particularly the elderly, were advised against fasting in order to avoid weakening their immune systems.
Although the Jewish community encourages not fasting if you are pregnant or have health issues, not partaking in 2020 due to age when fasting would otherwise be reasonable amplifies the strange times we live in. Using Zoom for worship was a severe moral dilemma for many Orthodox Jews, who avoid using technology on Tisha B’av. This year, observant Jews were even allowed to listen to music on the somber holiday, when it is usually forbidden, to fight off feelings of depression.
Tisha B’av is a holiday of mourning, particularly for the Jewish people and the many obstacles they have overcome throughout history. Mourning took a new form this holiday. Many mourners took time to grieve the 788,000 deaths worldwide from COVID-19, especially the deaths of essential workers who put their own lives on the line for our needs. Worldwide we mourned the senseless deaths of black people at the hands of the police. In Boston, Kavod, a group of young Jews fighting for justice, organized a vigil for the lost black lives at the end of Tisha B’av.
In 2020, a year in which we have been confronted by a situation we have never experienced before, coupled with a worldwide social movement, Tisha B’av looked a bit different. Yet, it was no less important, meaningful, or poignant—in fact, it was arguably more so.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of Converge Interfaith.