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Cognitive Dissonance on Tisha B'Av

Thursday, 30 July, 2020 - 5:44 pm

 Cognitive dissonance. It can be defined as acting one way while believing the opposite, which causes us to experience stress. Sometimes I wonder about this when I am sitting on a low stool on Tisha B’Av (the day we mourn destruction of the two Holy Temples and the exile of the Jewish people from our land), reading lamentations, fasting and wearing non-leather shoes. At the same time I read that this day will, in the future, be the most joyous day on the Jewish calendar. This future joy spills over to our time. There are certain prayers - called tachnun - that we do not say on holidays, and we don’t say them on Tisha B’Av, because in the book of Lamentations this day is called “Moed,” meaning holiday. How can one reconcile these two opposite ideas?

In a nutshell, the answer related to what I wrote about last week - attitude.  How an event occurs to us depends on our attitude and interpretation. A house burns down. That is an event. Is it good or bad?  If the owner was intending to live there for many years, it is a bad thing. However If the owner wanted to tear it down to build a new one, the fire paved the way for the new construction. Meanwhile , the person is misplaced from the home, needs to find a place to live and replace the items that were destroyed This is difficult and challenging. But the actual event of the house burning is in fact leading to a positive outcome. Perhaps the owner was procrastinating and not wanting to go to the trouble of moving etc., and the house would have started falling apart. The fire has led to a new, positive future.


A parent holds a child down while the doctor sticks a big needle in his or her arm. The child feels pain and cannot believe the parent would allow this to happen. The parent is motivated only by love of the child and concern for his or her health. In fact this love expresses a deeper love than when the parent is giving the child what he wants. By nature, a parent suffers when a child is in pain. Yet the parent digs deep into his or her well of love and overcomes that’s nature to cause pain to the child, pain that is necessary for her welfare.


Yes, we are in pain. We fast and lament, we sit on low chairs and cry for the pain of the exile and the loss of the Temple. It is painful and tragic. But it happened to us because of Hashem’s love for us. The destruction of the Temple was to make way for the third, eternal Temple. Our dispersion around the world is to elevate the world and make its entirety a home for Hashem.  There is no dissonance. There is pain and faith. Pain for the past and present, and faith for the greater future. And the understanding that every bit of pain and every moment that we overcome it and act according to Hashem’s will, Is creating that future and bringing it closer. Tisha B’Av will be the greatest holiday because the destruction that happened on that day will lead to the glorious future.


Enough pain. Time for the great future. Hope and faith are wonderful and important, but it’s time for us to see and experience the glory and the joy in reality. May it be soon.


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