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This Date in Jewish History: Tisha B’Av

“On the 9th of Av it was decreed that our ancestors would not enter the land.”

(Mishnah Ta’anit 4:6)

In the Mishnah, edited approximately 2,000 years ago, the early rabbis list five specific events which occurred on the 9th of the month of Av. According to their calendar, on today’s date in history the twelve spies sent by Moses to survey the land of Israel returned from their mission. Ten of them brought back a negative report, saying that giants inhabited the land and that the people of Israel would never succeed in overtaking them. Their words created panic and despair in the camp.

Rabbis throughout the generations have chronicled the calamities that befell the Jewish people on the 9th of Av, including many expulsions from host countries and several events of the Shoah, the Holocaust. But the fact that the rabbis of the first century reach back in time to this particular event–God’s punishment of our biblical ancestors– to represent the first Tisha B’Av, is significant. On this date in Jewish history, a minyan (quorum) of Jews caused a fracture in our unity and prevented us from reaching the Promised Land. On this date in Jewish history, we were exiled from the Promised Land, our Temple and our holy city Jerusalem left in ruins.

We can deduce from the rabbinic chronology of tragedy that it is human nature to try to make sense of the random occurrences in our lives. We strive to create order from chaos, to connect the dots of the circumstances that befall us into a linear biography. We assign dates to events in our ancestors’ lives, which are to be commemorated by our progeny, because we need to find purpose in our own lives.

 

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My Canniversary

Canniversary(colloquial) noun:a year from the date on which you were fired from a job[Source: www.urbandictionary.com]

We generally think of birthdays and anniversaries as milestones to be celebrated. At same time, these dates offer us opportunities to look back on the year that has passed and plan ahead for the coming year.

I recently celebrated my canniversary – it has been one year since I began my period of unemployment.This year marks the first time in my adult life– and if you count babysitting and summer jobs, the first time since my 12th birthday– that I have not worked.Of course, I did work odd jobs throughout the year, including substitute teaching and a five week summer camp gig, and since January I have been volunteering weekly at a local food pantry.Still, my canniversary proclaims that the process of “redirecting my career” has spilled over into a second year without steady income.

A friend of mine shared a wonderful insight about how this change in employment status affected her: We were raised with certain parental expectations, namely, that we would go college, get a masters degree or other professional training, and begin a career in our chosen professions.This period of transition is difficult because we are breaking boundaries, making new choices, defying expectations.

Fifteen years ago I wondered whether I was “mother” material. Now I am a stay-at-home mom, choosing not to work full time this year so that my teenager who is starting high school will not come home to an empty house. I often struggle with guilt about this choice, as I am not contributing financially to the family’s budget. But juggling the part time and volunteer commitments that I have made, along with the schedules of three children and a spouse, is a full time job. Recognizing this as my work, although it cannot be measured quantitatively with salary scales and promotions and scheduled vacation time, I feel relieved of a great burden. This canniversary was a time to reflect on life’s many transitions and a moment of joyous celebration of the life that I am now leading.

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