It’s the middle of the afternoon and it hasn’t quite hit me yet, that my two oldest children left this morning for a month of sleep-a-way camp at Camp Ramah in Canada. Even though we packed them up, four duffel bags worth, handed their passports over to a young capable looking bus counselor, and hugged and kissed them goodbye.
After all, I say goodbye to my kids every morning for the entire school year – sometimes with a kiss, sometimes not.
It’s tonight that will be hard. When they don’t come home. When there will be two less at the dinner table and when my daughter’s bedroom will be empty. When my oldest son won’t be in the top bunk and my youngest son will have no one to fight with or talk to all hours of the night as he usually does. Then it will hit me.
Tonight will also be hard because tonight begins one of the saddest days on the Jewish calendar — the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, or Tisha B’Av.
This is the first blog entry I have mentioned I am Jewish. I don’t intend to make this a blog about Judaism, or write this blog only for Jews. But because I am Jewish, and a Jewish educator, Judaism may come up from time to time. And if it helps to lift some of the mystique of what Judaism is beyond Hava Nagila and Hanukkah, all the better!
What makes this day a sad one? On this date in the Hebrew Calendar many tragedies fell on the Jewish people -including the destruction of the two Temples – one in 586 BCE, or BC and the other in 70 CE or AD by the Romans, followed by a 2,000 year exile of the Jewish people. Heavy, sad stuff.
Jews observing this solemn day hold a fast from sundown to sundown, starting tonight, and read from the Book of Lamentations. To demonstrate the sadness, many sit on the floor.
I can just imagine the scene at their arrival at camp: my kids will have to get off the bus, have a screaming, squealing joyful reunion with friends, and then get ready to fast. Because this holiday falls in the summer, when school and Hebrew school is not in session, many Jews don’t know much about it.
Unless, you go to a Jewish summer camp. Tish B’Av has claimed its right in the Jewish religion as a very campy holiday.
A camping experience that begins with a fast to commemorate the saddest moments in Jewish history probably does not sound like a good time to the outside world. But my kids live for their time at Camp Ramah. They talk about all the fun they have there, the friends they make and the songs they sing, the whole year long. They count down the days until they return, to live Jewishly every day with friends they only see this one month a year.
Unlike most who will be fasting alone or at work tomorrow, in the supportive community of camp, I know that my son and daughter will find encouragement to either fast the whole day, or the wisdom from counselors and staff who will determine it’s time to get something to eat or drink.
Next, I will write about the good points and adjustments of having two out of three children away at sleep-a-way camp. And to all of you who are observing, an easy and meaningful fast.