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Israel Diary: T'shuvah – Repentence or Return?

On Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) – the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, it is customary to fast, to refrain from washing, to sit on low stools and read somber texts like Eicha (Lamentations). It is a day of quiet reflection.

This year, on Tisha B’Av, we will fly. We will probably eat. Out of courtesy to those around us, we will wash. There will be no low stools, only cramped seats. Whatever we read will most likely NOT be particularly lament-able, unless you count the prices of items in SkyMall Magazine. And because we will be traveling as a family – all 6 of us – buoyed by the exuberance that only 10- and 7 year old boys can generate, I’m betting the day will be anything but quiet.

This year, on Tisha B’Av, we are taking a trip to Israel – the first for all of us except my oldest daughter.

We wrestled with the dates.Believe it or not, if we left a day before or after, the cost of the flight went up $300 – per person – which put it out of the realm of affordability for us. In addition, we’re in a very particular situation where work and school and life are such that we all can spare the time. There may never be a time again when all 6 of us can make this kind of trip.

I have been told that the observances of Tisha B’Av are minhag – customs – rather than mitzvot (commandments). But I’m betting there won’t be much of a tefillin-wearing crowd on this particular flight.

In the end, we decided that it was a bigger shame (I won’t say sin) to miss this opportunity than to travel. In the middle of Eicha, we read:

“Surely the LORD’S mercies are not consumed, surely His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.”

That gives me hope that might will find a forgiveness floating on the hot August breezes. To be forgiven, one must repent. “T’shuvah – the word often translated as “repentance” more accurately means return. And at the end of Eicha it says:

“Let us search and try our ways, and return to the LORD.
Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.”

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