Mesorah (Jewish stuff)

What to Read, Watch or Listen to on Tisha B’Av

There was a time when I would mark the beginning of the Three Weeks by going to the library and checking out an armful of Holocaust books.  By the time Tisha B’Av came around, I would be appropriately sobered by my reading.  That was back when I was single, and had little demands on my time or organizational skills save for focusing on the Jewish calendar.

One mildly concerning thing I’ve noticed since becoming a mother is that many holidays come up upon with with a degree of surprise.  Well, the spiritual aspects come upon me with surprise.  I’ve gotten fairly efficient at taking care of the physical stuff – making sure I have enough food, planned a menu, have enough clean clothes, and I’ve even gotten to the point where I’ve gotten my sheitel to the macher in time.

However, planning for the spiritual part of a holiday, arguably the most important part, and certainly the only part I focused on back in my single days, always seems to get me.  And then, despite all the work I’ve done for the holiday, I used to end up feeling disconnected or worse, frustrated at myself, or even worse, apathetic about the lack of connection.

Now, having been doing this religious thing for about ten years, it’s not surprising that it takes a little more effort to connect.  Throw in the multitude of mundane yet crucial tasks needed to make a holiday happen and it’s even less surprising.  So I don’t really beat myself up anymore, and I don’t wish things were different, that my life was more like how it was when I was an idealistic seminary girl.

those were the days, kind of
those were the days, kind of

Nah.  My life is good.  I just have to put in a little more effort to stay in touch with the reasons behind the traditions that I keep.

A Time to Mourn

Which brings me to Tisha B’Av, the Ninth day of the month of Av, the saddest day in the Jewish year.  The day where we contemplate all the losses and tragedies we’ve suffered throughout Jewish history, where we resolve to do better, to earn the redemption that we have been longing for since the destruction of the second Temple.  Our tradition teaches us that the second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred.  To quote one of the many excellent articles on Aish.com:

“Hatred is not just actively doing others harm. It is also about not caring. It is about seeing others in pain, others in danger, and not caring enough to get up and do something. If we think about, treating others like they do not exist is the greatest hatred.”

-Rabbi Benjamin Rapaport

I know that over the past year, I have been so overwhelmed with the crisis in our own family, as well as the demands of mothering three small children, I have stopped looking outside my own little world as much as I used to.  I have felt depleted and overwhelmed, and as a result, have experienced a diminished capacity to care about those outside my immediate family.

I’ve been coasting along on this status quo for months now, and it’s just lately that I’ve started to emerge from my cocoon.  Taking the time to focus on Tisha B’Av, and why we are still in mourning, in galus, has helped shake off some of my lethargy.  It’s reminded me of the importance of striving to empathize with others, even when it’s not easy.

Something else that isn’t easy for me is staying focused on Tisha B’Av.  My mind wanders and for several years now, I’ve lacked the motivation to avoid reading a novel or aimlessly browsing the internet.  Many years I just don’t want to feel sad anymore.  I want to feel the nothing of escapism.  And then, of course, I feel the classic Jewish guilt.  We’ve been in exile for how long and I can’t even spend one measly day feeling sad about it?  

Granted, much of my focus on Tisha B’Av is on conserving my energy from fasting and being a mother to three small children while doing so.  That doesn’t exactly leave a ton of extra time to focus exclusively on the day.

Fine.  Maybe it’s not realistic for me to stay focused the whole day at this point in my life, but I would sure like to feel like I made more of an effort.  I could talk to my children about it. I could have a shiur on in the background.  When I do have a pocket of downtime, as I do during the day, I could spend it meaningfully instead of frivolously.

This year, with the person and national tragedies looming in my mind, I feel much more motivated to observe Tisha B’Av in a more genuine way (for me) than I have in the past.  So, as much for me as for you, I’ve compiled a list of links for reading, listening and watching for Tisha B’Av (my apologies on the timing of this post to readers on the other side of the globe, whose day may already be over by the time they read this).

Without Further Ado

To Read

It makes sense that reading Eichah (Lamentations) is always a good place to begin.

On Aish.com, there’s an entire section on Tisha B’Av, with both written article and video.

Chabad.org also has a wealth of information about this time of year

Torah.org has a number of articles about the Three Weeks and Tisha B’Av.

So does ou.org.

Allison over at JewintheCity has written some posts on Tisha B’Av over the years

To Listen

Naaleh.com has a wide array of speakers and topics.  The format is video lectures. You do need to sign up to be able to listen to the entire shiur, but it’s free, and they won’t send you emails (you may have to select not to have them sent; I don’t remember anymore) and definitely worth the small investment of time it takes to set up an account.  I like to have this on in the background when I’m in the kitchen.  Here’s what they have on the topic of Tisha B’Av.

SimpletoRemember.com has a couple of classes

I’m pretty sure TorahAnytime.com will have what to listen to.  I was having some difficulty getting into the site while writing this post.

Ohr Naava has a whole program for Tisha B’Av (requires the purchase of tickets).

YUTorah.org has a live Tisha B’Av Telecast.

The faculty of Neve Yerushalayim explains the Kinos for us.  Email 9AvJerusalem@gmail.com to get access to the live stream or recordings.  Also, their Facebook page has list of events to listen to.

To Watch

The Youtube channel USC Shoah Foundation has many Holocaust survivor testimonies.

Here’s another video on Voices from the Holocaust by Yale University

The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation puts on a video every Tisha B’Av.  Here’s a list of US showings.  This does require leaving the house.

A short shiur by one of my favorite historians, Rabbi Berel Wein

Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky, a very funny rabbi, gives a shiur on a serious topic (warning:  he is still funny sometimes in the video).

If you need to feel more depressed, here’s a video of a mayor of a town in eastern Hungary who held an event hanging effigies of the prime minister and former president of Israel to protest the war in Gaza.  Apparently the mayor also opposes “the efforts of Freemason Jews to rule the world.”  People really do believe this, apparently.  Some people also still believe that Jews bake the blood of non-Jewish children into their matzah.  I find that all a little depressing, frankly.  It reminds me of something a friend of mine told me about growing up in Spain.  At school, a classmate asked her where her horns were (because some people think Jews have horns).  It was 2006.  Yes, a lot of these silly rumors are based in ignorance, but the history of violence attached to the ignorance is pretty scary.

That should be a good starting point.  Please share how you are spending your time, what you’re reading or listening to.  And may next Tisha B’Av be a joyful one.

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12 thoughts on “What to Read, Watch or Listen to on Tisha B’Av

  1. I find it ironic mi have had to do much upheaval and so much to grieve for on the last few years. It’s rare that i get through a day without crying. But on tisha bav it all shuts down. I can’t feel a thing. I think its the obligatory aspect of it. Sadness is organic. Knowing that right now I’m supposed to be sad in and if itself freezes feeling. Focusing on the day makes it cerebral instead of emotional. I can’t feel on command and I find it very very hard to immerse myself in my own sorrow when my children are around.I know we aren’t supposed to spare the children from the sadness of the day but I can’t go to that place in my heart with little eyes watching me. I dint know the solution.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head that when something is obligatory, even if it comes naturally to us, it is suddenly a challenge when we “have” to do it. The only thing I can suggest is to daven about it, and even if you’re not crying in front of your kids, you can still talk to them about what the day means, about sad things that have happened in Jewish history, how we hope that we will have the Temple very soon, etc. IY”H, this will be the last Tisha B’Av we need to be sad on, and your problem will be resolved!

  2. Thanks for the list. YUTorah should also have shiurim.

    This year I feel comfortable with my level of attention to the day, because this whole thing in Israel/Gaza has been putting me in a thoughtful- why-are-humans-so-sucky-mood, but yes, other years I know what you mean about not wanting to feel too bad. I don’t want to get overly emotional in a way that is not sustainable past a few hours, but I do like to continue the thinking I’ve been doing and reading the Nevi’im which speak about sin and teshuvah. (I am doing the OU Nach Yomi, and we are up to Yirmiyahu)

    This line made me laugh: We’ve been in exile for how long and I can’t even spend one measly day feeling sad about it?

  3. While I’ve been healing this last year, I’ve experienced a spiritual disconnect & it’s been disconcerting. As I reconnect with old friends & meet new people, I am finding I have the energy to look outside myself again. And thank goodness for that. Thank you for this amazing post & all the links. I’ve been living in sadness & pain for over a year, and now I’d prefer to focus on the resilience of afflicted people everywhere in the worst of times. As you know, Jewish people haven’t cornered the market on suffering, and I see my Jewishness differently these days – as a metaphor for the pain all of humanity experiences. I don’t think I saw that before my illness and I’m grateful for the new vision.

    1. I think affliction can be a great tool for developing resilience. I’m curious about what you said about your jewishness being a metaphor. Would love to hear more about that.

  4. Great post! I didn’t turn on my computer today at all until after the fast — just used the kids’ naps to sleep myself — but I bookmarked this for the future. I spent some time today going back and forth about how taking care of the kids was an appropriate avodah for me (and one that I am so grateful to be doing), but also remembering the things I did on past Tisha B’Avs that were more conducive to connecting to the meaning of the day (slow davening, super long kinot programs, video speakers, in-person speakers, holocaust books, etc). I’m sure many, many others related to what you wrote here, too. Thank you.

  5. Thank you for this meaningful post. I totally agree that it can be difficult to focus on the spiritual side of fast days and Haggim while raising a family.

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