During the day in the cool
ocean waves of C.I. In evening
I deserted my many friends
in whose company I'd spent the
day, to go the Prayer services to
Tisha B'ab Eve
Thousands of years after the
destruction of Jerusalem a big synagogue
on the gay seashore of C.I. on a hot
summer night is crowded to capacity
bewailing the greatest disaster in
Israels history. Many removed
their shoes sitting on the floor,
Slowly the familiar mournful melody
of "Aichu" is read. Among them
I sat with eyes moist bewailing a
land which neither I nor my parents
or my great great parents ever saw
but still no near to me.
That is the miracle of Israels eternal life
In a religious tradition with its fair share of sad holidays, Tisha B'Av is the saddest Jewish holiday of all. It commemorates the destruction of First Temple and the Second Temple, both of which occurred on the same date, as did a number of other subsequent tragedies. I've never personally worshiped during Tisha B'Av, though I know the mournful "Aichu" Papa refers to is usually written as "Eicha" and means "Lamentations."
Religious faith is, as I've mentioned before, one facet of Papa's character I cannot locate in my own -- I am simply not a person of faith. Still, I'm touched by the intensity of Papa's devotion, the image of tears in his eyes as a sad prayer is read, the sense of eternal connection he shares with past and future generations of Jews through the mournful ritual of Tisha B'Av. The sadness is a miracle to him because it makes the long-lost land of Israel almost tangible, and no doubt sustains his faith in the eventual success of his Zionist efforts.
This year, though, I'm sure deep spiritual contemplation of destruction and recovery is even more important to Papa since he is in the throes of his own violent personal change. His father's death has, I think, wrenched away any thought he ever entertained of recovering the sense of belonging he felt with his family in the old country. As Papa himself has written, his father represented to him everything good in the world, and his death triggered a feeling in Papa akin to "lost paradise."
In short: Papa had experienced, with the death of his father, the destruction of his own temple. His tearful awe over "the miracle of Israels eternal life," maintained through mourning, must have touched him profoundly as he sought a way to maintain his father's legacy. Perhaps Papa's own efforts to help reinvent and rebuild a new, modern Israel inspired by ancient faith helped him realize that he, too, could build a new life for himself inspired by his father's example. Was that understanding, not yet consciously realized, partly responsible for the tears in Papa's eyes on this hot August night?
[posted from Mexico]
The guy who sold me the photo below claims they're of a Coney Island synagogue, and while I don't necessarily believe him, I am relatively sure they were taken in Brooklyn in the late 1920's:
Here's a closer look at the synagogue:
I wish I knew what the guy with the pushcart was selling. Looks like it might be ices of some sort: