Korah Alai Moed… He summoned an assembly against me … (Eicha 1:15)
Somebody asked me this week why Tisha B’Av is called a Moed, like it’s a Yom Tov, a Good Day. Moed means a meeting as in Ohel Moed, which was the Tent of Meeting, the Mishkan. A Yomim Toving, Holidays are also referred to as Moed. It can be a meeting in place or a meeting in time. It’s an appointment.
Tisha B’Av is a different type of meeting. It’s like being called into the principal’s office. A serious conversation has to take place. Corrections need to be made. What happens in that meeting will impact how the rest of the educational process will unfold or fold up. I have been to many of these types of meetings from all sides of the equation.
Sometimes, as a principal, I have had a child come in all defensive and deny that he had done anything wrong, and pointing fingers and blaming, and lots of other deflecting strategies. I have two very effective strategies that I have used very often to get to the heart of the matter. I will tell the child, “I was not there and I do not know what happened but let’s figure this thing out together. First of all, you are not in trouble!” (The child relaxes somewhat but remains skeptical)
“Let me explain please. If you learn something from what happened today and from what we are doing here then today was a good day because you learned something. If you don’t learn anything then you are in trouble, but you are not in trouble from me or with me. You are in trouble with yourself, because what happened is likely to happen again and repeat itself until you learn what to do or what not to do.” The child is more open and ready for part two.
I continue, “Again I don’t know if anything happened but let me ask you this question. You don’t have to answer me. Answer yourself for yourself. Here is the question to determine if you were really doing the right thing, “If everybody was doing what you were doing would it be a better class? Would it be a better school? Would it be a better world?”
I have witnessed 7 years olds thinking reflectively and shaking their heads “NO” to each question. I remind them, “You don’t have to answer me. Answer yourself for yourself. If the answer is ‘YES’ then keep up the great work, but if the answer is ‘NO’ then stop and make a better choice! Can you think of anything you would have done differently?” Now a healthy and helpful discussion begins! Tisha B’Av is not just a day to be sad and feel arbitrarily guilty.
Yes, it is that uncomfortable meeting in the principal’s office, hopefully, with the right type of introspection, we can exit this episode with some constructive strategies to make things better.
Actually, Tisha B’Av is a day which is loaded with awesome potential. It was originally set aside as a glorious and beautiful appointment. When the spies returned after scouting out the Land of Israel for 40 days, it was on the eve of Tisha B’Av. Had they delivered positive and uplifting news then that would have been the time when the Jewish People excitedly and confidently prepared to enter the Holy Land. That night Tisha B’Av would have such a grand national celebration, like a wedding.
However, those spies brought a discouraging report. The people’s hearts were broken. They cried that night on Tisha B’Av, what the sages called a “Bechia Shel Chinum” – “a cry for nothing”. It was based on a false report. What a waste of emotion! That night set a template for generations. Now we cry on Tisha B’Av but not for nothing. We weep for that which is most significant. Because Tisha B’Av could have been a such giant cause for joy, when it was frustrated, it became a huge calamity. We fell prey to a false report and abandoned HASHEM, as a jilted bride standing alone under the Chupa.
This would have been the anniversary of something special, a beautiful appointment but it has become a day of disappointment. We need to remember that we are not in trouble. It’s a teachable moment. We are only in trouble if we fail to learn what it is that we can do better. If we do, then even Tisha B’Av can be a great day.