Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The 10th of Av …

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, by Francesco Hayez
I am, for all intents and purposes, asleep right now. I was up all night last night and pretty much it has ruined me for today. I guess when I was younger I could do an all-nighter and not have it mean all that much. Youth is resilient in that way but I am not so youthful any more.

The reason for staying up was that last night was the end of the fast for the 9th of Av, the day that commemorates the destruction of both the first and the second temples. In Orthodox Judaism, the 9th of Av is one of the most solemn fast days. I stuck my head in the synagogue late in the afternoon to see how all were doing. The guys from the yeshiva were camping out in the air-conditioning, watching movies and feeling the pain. Perhaps kharma is real because I immediately felt an iron grip of a bond. I realized that all day I had been feeling the distress, not only from myself but from of all who were suffering on this day- out of remembrance, out of responsibility; observance, faith- maybe faithfulness works as well.

Wiki has this to say about the 9th of Av:

    Its name denotes the ninth day (Tisha) of the Jewish month of Av. The day has been called the "saddest day in Jewish history". The fast commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Those two events occurred about 656 years apart, but on the same date.

    In connection with the fall of Jerusalem, three other fast-days were established at the same time as the Ninth Day of Av: these were the Tenth of Tevet, when the siege began; the Seventeenth of Tammuz, when the first breach was made in the wall; and the Third of Tishrei, known as the Fast of Gedaliah, the day when Gedaliah was assassinated (II Kings 25:25; Jeremiah 41:2).

    From Zechariah 7:5, 8:19 it appears that after the building of the Second Temple the custom of keeping these fast-days was temporarily discontinued. Since the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Second Temple by the Romans, the four fast-days have again been observed.

    Tisha B'Av is a fast day similar to Yom Kippur. While most other fasts on the Jewish calendar only last from dawn to nightfall, the Tisha B'Av fast lasts about 25 hours, beginning at sunset on the eve of Tisha B'Av and ending at nightfall the next day. Tisha B'Av also shares four additional prohibitions with Yom Kippur:

    The five main prohibitions on Tisha B'Av are:
    1. No eating or drinking
    2. No washing or bathing
    3. No application of creams or oils
    4. No wearing of leather shoes
    5. No sexual relations or displays of physical affection
I stayed for mincha and ma'ariv and after there was a fine meal served which included, along with any number of tasty salads and side dishes, several plates of poached salmon which I was told repeatedly cost $120 for the seven kilo fish. This is an enormous amount of money for Belarus. It was a great extravagance. The boys of the yeshiva don't really feel Belarus and they still basically live on American or European standards of living. Still they fought over the money that had been spent for the fish. I put my two cents in that the arguing had the effect of greatly devaluing the fish; bad karma to demand that we focus on the money rather than getting to enjoy it. They didn't want to listen so there was that bit of kharma in there too. The fish was great though. Would have noticed even if they didn't go on about it.

After the food we were all a little drunk- I didn't drink any alcohol, but again, the essence of the day mixed with such a fine table was intoxicating enough. I don't know that the conversations were all that wonderful; rehashing old gripes and trying to make sence of the landscape. But regardless it simply wouldn't end and there were still four of us making jokes and swatting away mosquitoes at 4:30 in the morning.

For some reason I didn't even go straight to sleep but instead decided to watch a movie for a while. I only lasted about 30 minutes before I passed out and fell out of the chair I was sitting in. After that I cursed my stupidly and stumbled off to bed.

I was awakened when Tanya had to go off to work. It was again my responsibility to look after the kids. I could see straight away that I was completely off my game and that my brain was not generating anything of the sort of electricity necessary to do any of the tasks I needed to perform. I chose some lighter things to try and do such as finishing replacing the tap in the shower and buying some bananas at the market. For some reason, my Russian would not come out right and people I speak to every day were looking at me with great worried expressions on their faces. Perhaps they thought I was drunk. Or worse. Luckily Anya was very reasonable.

Unfortunately though, after we stumbled home Anya refused to take a nap at any of the normal times she would have. Eventually I had no choice but to simply ignore her and started making today's BHTimes. Luckily today's themes were pretty easy to follow: Gazprom has taken everything away from Belarus and Belarus scurries to try and make up the bill by selling arms and missiles to Hugo Chavez. Nothing to worry about there; it's all just business, right?

After that I tried to relax a little but couldn't because Anya would grab at my eye lids every time they started to close. So I got up and cleaned and then wrote some letters. Later I gave an English lesson and then, after tanya got back I watched the movie "1408", a pretty decent horror movie. And now it's 10:45 and I am writing this blog.

Up until about an hour ago, Egor had been struggling through his math studies. He tried all morning to make sence of the lesson and had sat down and gone at it again this evening- all without success. Before sitting down to write this, I went to him and asked if he could see how tired and messed up I was. He said he could.

"I have to ask; do you think that if you are really tired that it is better to just go to sleep or to try and finish what you have to do first?"

"Go to sleep is better." Is what he said.

"Which do you think I am going to do though?"

"You will work."

"Do you know why?"


"Because if I don't, perhaps people will stop believing me."

I told him I was going to get a glass of water, have a pee and then sit down and write this post. I told him that this is simply the way the world is and that even though sometimes you are so tired that you absolutely cannot think straight, the important thing is to finish the job you started.

The reason I mention this last part is that about 40 minutes ago, he is alseep now, Egor finally stood up and told me he had managed to get through the math study. I guess he had suddenly become inspired enough to actually stick his head in the book and see what was going on. Either that, or he really, really wanted to get some sleep. I know the feeling.

Moor soon…