Talmud this Shabbat: Holy Roller Coaster


How shall we understand the hot mess that is our beloved country right now?

Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer, a rabbi at the Kitchen in San Francisco, makes an utterly brilliant and original point about the difference between the fast of Tisha B’av and the fast of Isaiah that we read on Yom Kippur.

The fast of Tisha B’av is: we are doomed and defeated and deserted. There is nothing to do but mourn.

The fast of Isaiah is: things are bad, but we can, and we have to, take action to fix things. Rabbi Meyer points to the plethora of action verbs in Isaiah: unlock, untie, let the oppressed go free, break off yoke, share, take into your home.

The fast of Tisha B’av is about mourning defeat. The fast of Isaiah is about igniting the desire to fix brokenness.

She brought this home in the most poignant way. She said she has a Canadian passport. Many of her friends and family members are urging her to renew her Canadian passport. But she says that is the wrong move. That is the fast of Tisha B’av. Rather, the fast of Isaiah is the right move, which is to renew not a foreign passport, but to renew our own country.

Which brings us to Sukkot. Two months separate Tisha B’av (we are doomed) from Isaiah/Yom Kippur (we take action to fix). Four days separate Yom Kippur from Sukkot, where the agenda is joy. “You shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” Leviticus 23:40.

How does joy fit into this trajectory? How do we move from Isaiah’s charge of fixing our broken world to rejoicing in a mere four days?

When you put Tisha B’av, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot together, what is the message, and what is the message to us now?

The texts are here.

Shabbat shalom and chag sameakh,

Wes