Sunflower in bloom

From Bitter To Sweet

One thing we love about being Jewish is the bittersweetness of it all.

The mar (bitter) and the matok (sweet) always go hand-in-hand. An example of this is how Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s memorial day, rolls right into Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.

Perhaps a more familiar one is the smashing of the glass at a wedding to remind us that our world is not yet perfect: that in the most happiest moments, we bring an awareness that the brokenness of the world is still with us. 

Tonight starts the month of Av, a month that really encapsulates the idea of something bittersweet: we have a sad holiday that backs into a happy one. Tisha B’Av commemorates a day of destruction in Jewish history, most significantly the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Following right on its heels is Tu B’Av, a kind of Jewish Love Day with historical agricultural significance. Read more about Tu B’Av here.

This year, Tisha B’Av starts at sundown on July 26 and Tu B’Av starts at sundown on August 1.

The month of Av is associated with fire, an element that can be both destructive and beautiful, full of passion and heat. The aftermath of a fire is ash, which creates a state of matter from which anything new can be born, renewed, and reconstructed. Creative destruction can sometimes be painfully required. In fact, unlike other ancient systems which had four elements – in Jewish tradition we see murky water as the first element. Then the emergence of fire boils, refines and clarifies the murky water by creating steam, which then ultimately creates ash/dirt – the fourth and ultimately most real element. So one could would say Tisha bav is the day of the creation of dirt, ash, rubble, compost, with compost being the most active version of fire within dirt.

How can we take destruction and turn it into something beautiful? Isn’t this, at its essence, such a Jewish question?

How have you turned something destructive into something beautiful, and what lessons you’ve learned from it?

Bitter-sweet: this exquisite blend that brings out the true essence of the month of Av.
Rabbi Psachyah Lichtenstein 
Director of Jewish Learning
Rachel Siegal
Chief Development Officer
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