We are now in the beginning of the month of Av. During the first nine days of the month we commemorate the destruction of the holy Temple (Beit Hamikdash) in Jerusalem. During these nine days, it is customary to refrain from eating meat. Not surprisingly, many of my family’s dairy recipes in the book, Food Family and Tradition were prepared during this time. An example of one such recipe is Potato-Egg Casserole (page 114) on which page I recall the commemoration as my mother remembers it from her childhood in Hungary.
“ The Nine Days”
The first nine days of the month of Av (which always falls in summer), commemorates the nine days leading up to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is a time of mourning. In addition to the laws of mourning, we refrain from eating meat. On the ninth day (Tisha B’Av) we fast for 25 hours, from just before sundown until after the stars come out the next night. My mother remembers the evening of Tisha B’Av. All the men, including her grandfather and father, went to the Synagogue to hear the chanting of the book of Eicha. My mother, along with a dozen women gathered in her grandmother’s home. They sat on the floor as a sign of mourning .Her grandmother read to them Eicha in Yiddish form from Tzena Urena (the Yiddish translation of the Torah, Megillot and Haftarot for women).
This culminates on the Ninth of Av, which is the date on which the holy Temple was finally destroyed. Although this holiday is primarily meant to commemorate the destruction of the Temple, it is appropriate to consider on this day the many other tragedies of the Jewish people, many of which occurred on this day, most notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and from England in 1290.
For me and for my family, this day has been inextricably tied to the destruction of Eastern European Jewry by the Nazis during the Holocaust. And in Chicago, for the past few years, many of the organizations and synagogues show films, tell stories that occurred during the Holocaust, portraying the destruction as well as the courage of those who died at the hands of the Nazis.
Each year, I will spend the day praying, watching documentaries on Jewish history, listening to the testimony of a Holocaust Survivor. I immerse myself in feeling Jewish history and Jewish memory. The day is a long, sad day.
But when the day is over, and we begin the next day, we look to the future: a future bright with promise, optimism and hope.