Tisha B’Av, A Potent Meditation
by Sarah Yehudit Schneider
Everyone knows that Av is the month that includes the most fateful day in the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av (the 9 of Av), which is distinguished by its extremely fallen state and yet its extremely great potential. It is the month where our collective heart is wrenched from our midst, twice, for as everyone knows both of our Temples were destroyed on the ninth of Av. It’s the month where we hit bottom.
And yet, as everyone knows, that very day of tears and mourning and sackcloth, that is the day, we’re told, that mashiach is born. But what does that really mean? The midrash gives a hint, in its commentary on the second verse of the Torah which reads, “And the spirit of G-d hovered upon the waters.”
It explains that this “spirit of G-d” hovering upon the waters is actually the “soul of mashiach,” a term that refers to the highest possible G-d awareness / truth awareness that human beings are capable of. The whole point of our six thousand year labor of teshuva and tikun, of trying to grow and evolve, is to stretch and refine our personal and collective vessels, so that this “spirit of G-d”…“this soul of mashiach” can finally fit inside, embodied as the messianic golden age. Now, it “hovers upon the waters” i.e., the shifting sands of our physical world, waiting for our vessels to evolve and expand enough to finally let it come in. Now, our vessels are too narrow and constricted. There’s no space for its more expansive vision to fit inside.
The soul of mashiach has two dimensions. One is the enlightenment that all of creation will enjoy; and one is that there will be an individual (or more likely a couple) that will master mind and master heart this giant planetary-scale project of coordinating all of humanity into a single, smoothly operating organism, that will run as efficiently as a person’s body. According to kabbala, all of humanity, actually all of creation, is really a single partzuf, a single Adam. In fact, one main feature of messianic consciousness is a greater awareness of our oneness in this regard.
The distinguishing feature of this individual (or couple) is that he/she/they become the point of entry for the soul of mashiach. The highest tip of our world contacts the lowest toenails of the hovering soul of mashiach, and the highest tip of our world is the person (couple), mashiach.
And yet it’s a group effort. Ours is a holographic world, which means that every piece contains aspects of every other piece inside it. And so this person / couple, mashiach, contains a piece of each one of us inside him/her/them. The more fallen and unrectified our lives, the more constricted and dense is the particle that represents us inside mashiach. And all these dark, unrectified particles add up to a lot of dead weight around the neck of mashiach. And so, when we do our work, it lightens his load. And when he does his work it penetrates through all the layers of himself and touches our soul root inside him, sending a pulse of light, assistance and inspiration to help us raise ourselves a little more. We’re tunneling from both ends and at some point we’ll accumulate a critical mass of tikun where the joint system becomes rectified enough that his/her/their vessel can stretch the minimum amount necessary for the toe of the hovering messianic soul to actually, finally, squeeze in. At that point the potential mashiach becomes the actual mashiach, and that is what it means that mashiach is born.
So what is it about Tisha B’Av that makes it the most likely day for this to occur? On Tisha B’Av we are broken and crushed as we meditate upon all the tragedies and holocausts of Jewish history, the bitter fruits of our wayward deeds and causeless hatred. All of our calamities, even down to our personal misfortunes, are ultimately caused by the Temple’s demise. Without its protective aura, we are vulnerable to destructive forces both within and without.
Tisha B’Av is a collective meditation and I use that word deliberately, for meditation is defined as a continuous flow of thought on a particular object or point of focus. One chooses a target of attention and returns to it again and again whenever one’s mind strays. The mark of a potent meditation is that it arouses the emotion that is appropriate to its focus. For example, meditation on HaShem’s generosities arouses gratitude. Meditation on G-d’s greatness arouses awe.
It may sound strange, especially to New Age ears, but on Tisha B’Av we meditate on our failures and their consequences. This meditation is designed to break our pride and our ego, in order to, hopefully, clear out enough space for the soul of mashiach to finally enter. HaShem says, concerning the ego, “You and Me cannot share the same corner of the universe.” On Tisha B’Av millions of Jews throughout the world, the entire Jewish nation, are simultaneously meditating on the tragedy of our fallen state, and the cumulative effort of this massive ego-clearing has a fighting chance to create the necessary space, the crack that finally pulls the soul of mashiach into our world. It’s for this reason that mashiach is said to be “born” on Tisha B’ Av.
I want to bless us that this Tisha B’Av, when the lights of rectified listening fill the world, that we open our ears and our hearts to the voice of G-d that speaks through each circumstance of our personal and collective lives. Let us fulfill the condition of mashiach’s immediate arrival, so that our Tisha B’Av this year be turned from fasting to feasting.