Over the past month we have been confronted by tremendous sadness. It feels as if pain and sorrow have blanketed our nation; we have come together to support one another, to dry one another’s tears and hope to provide some comfort and joy. This has been a month of fear and unease, a month that I hope ends swiftly.
It seems that when we experience pain, sorrow, and fear there are few positive ways of coping. What can we do to get through the day, through the night, when our nation and homeland exist in turmoil? What can we do when our loved ones and kin continue to fight a war that the rest of the world seems to condemn? I feel as if since the moment Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Sha’ar, and Eyal Yifrach were kidnapped things have gone by in a blur. And in reality, there was so much going on before then. Social media no longer shows clips of cute animals or everyday statuses; instead our browsers are filled with photos, arguments, and news that brings us to anger or tears.
How can we cope with all this? How can we approach Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the year, in a meaningful and healthy manner? How can we treat ourselves kindly living with these emotions and at times with guilt or concern?
When difficulty strikes it is easy to push our emotions to the side. Many times we misplace these emotions by turning to other coping mechanisms. This may be through actions or behaviors. All too often an individual may over-eat or under-eat as a result of something difficult. Worry or heartbreak can cause us to turn toward or away from food. This does not help us work through our emotions, but rather acts as a form of avoidance. Some people turn toward drugs, alcohol, or self-harm to numb fear, pain, or chaos. Others lash out at those around them, feeling irritable or hostile as a result of emotions that they may be burying.
This is a very sensitive time for our nation. As we approach Tisha B’Av we are reminded of our history, of the tragic events and loss we have experienced not only in the recent past or over the course of the past century, but all the tragic experiences. This is a great deal of emotion, and a great deal to sit with. Rather than unhealthy coping skills, rather than displacement of emotions or numbing of feelings, it is time to sit with the pain while being kind to ourselves.
This seems difficult to achieve; sitting with negativity can be overwhelming and dangerous. But it can also be uplifting as it provides growth and personal insight. But how can we achieve this knowing that Israel is being terrorized and there is so much suffering and people dying? This is the time to be kind to others and gentle with ourselves.
When I speak in schools about confidence and inner peace I generally focus on the positive emotions that arise when doing good for others as well as being kind to oneself. This is the time when we must provide support to those who are in need and offer what we can to help. Rather than take out our emotions on food, on our bodies, or on our self-esteem, we should strive to address them, learn from them, and continue moving forward as best we can. We must learn to be easy on ourselves rather than experience internal negativity.
This year on the fast it is important to create meaning in whatever way possible. This is a day when we are commanded not to eat. While general manipulation of food is not encouraged, this day and commandment go deeper; the fast day is one when we are stripped of distractions and mourn the losses of our people. This year I plan not to avoid the difficulty of the day, but to appreciate the meaning behind the existence of this fast.
As a nation we must support one another and try to provide comfort and strength to others. I pledge to feel the sadness and the frustration and to learn to live with these emotions and turn them into reactions of strength rather than avoidance.
May you only hear and experience joy and success, and I hope that this Tisha B’Av provides meaning during a tumultuous time for our nation.
By Temimah Zucker