top of page
Study and Theory/
Tisha B'Av

Berl Katzenelson

The Sources Did Not Disappoint

Davar, 14th Av 5694 – 1934.

We have been given two strengths: memory and forgetfulness. We cannot manage without both of them. If we had no more than memory in the world, what would our fate be?

We would be burdened under the weight of the memories. We would have become slaves to our memories, to the fathers of our fathers. There was no ring binder then but rather a copy of the previous generations and if forgetfulness had taken control of us completely – there would have been no more place for culture, science, self recognition, spirituality?

The dark conservatism wants to take from us the power of forgetfulness and the revolutionary constructivist sees every memory of the past as “the enemy”, however if we have saved in the human memory valuables, noble trends, a memory of prosperous periods and efforts for freedom and heroism, no revolutionary movement would have been possible, we would have rotted at the doors of our ignorance. The slaves of the world.

A renewing and productive generation does not throw away the wave of refuse of the inheritance of the generations. It examines and checks, distances and brings closer and it can hold on to the existing tradition and add to it, and it could descend into the waves of junk, exposing things forgotten, polishing them from their rust, returning ancient tradition to life, that can feed the soul of the renewing generation. If there is something in the life of the nation that is very ancient and very deep, that can educate man and reinforce him against what is to come, shall this have a measure of revolution to alienate it? The Jewish year is sown with days which are not alike in the life of any nation. Is it of the interest or the role of the Hebrew Workers Movement to waste the strengths hoarded within them?

And Tisha B’Av. There are several enslaved nations in the world, and also many which have gone into exile. Wise Poland the refugees of which remained in exile for some two-three generations, have already known to a great extent the problems with assimilation. Huge Russia dispersed over the world masses of refugees after the October Revolution. And they, sitting on the rivers in France, already yearning for absorption, forgetting their language, the alienation of the young generation, and displacing the exemplary Jews who for two thousand years of dispersion could not endure.

Indeed Judaism knows how to maintain its day of mourning, the day of loss of its liberty, from any forgetfulness. And on this day each and every generation, and every Jewish individual, sees as if his world has been destroyed. And on this day every year boiling tears were spilt, and every generation transferred his pain. The national memory entered into this historic day several of the bitter experiences of the destruction of the First and Second Temples and through to the expulsion from Spain and to this day – the break out of the world war. The memory of the nation knew by the simplest of means to induce in one hour serious mourning for any Jewish soul on the earth. Every organ in the body of the nation, if it was not completely removed,  wrapped itself at this time in darkness, fell into sadness, folded into his heart the feeling of the destruction, the exile and the slavery. And every producing generation adds its own issues to the destruction, starting from the lamentation of Jeremiah, through the songs of Spain and the lamentations of the Ashkenazi Jews and up to the “the Scroll of Fire” by Bialik.

We are told about Adam Kitzkavitz, the great poet from Poland, who grieved his entire life about the slavery and made revolutionary plans to release them, that on Tisha B’Av he would go to the Jewish synagogue to share himself with the Jews mourning for the loss of their country.

It has been said that heaven forbid we would forget Tisha B’Av, but the nation returning to its home and building its buildings, will now turn the day of mourning to a festival day, and also enable us to see a victorious saying “and I changed their mourning to joy” (Jeremiah, 31:13).

Using this viewpoint I see a false poetic phrase of redemption, a belittlement of a tragedy of our times, and this is not the first time that I encounter such. Back at the outset of the Jewish Brigade I asked to dedicate within the brigade the memory of a national day of mourning, which would not have every day exercises and customs. Several members raised against me who saw this as proof of my “Goliathism”. They demanded to turn this day into a celebration saying we have already been “redeemed”. What happened to us after those days of redemption - we all know. The more our achievements in Israel, and the more that we succeed here, and also that we are successful in living here without humiliation and shame - we cannot say we have been “redeemed” for as long as our redemption has not concluded. For as long as the Jews are dispersed in exile and under the decrees of terror and humiliation and destruction, as in Yemen in Asia, in Algiers in Africa, in Germany in Europe, and not only enjoy “equal rights” and the grace of assimilation as in capitalist France and the Communist CSSR – I shall not forget, I shall not be able to forget the date of the destruction, the most terrible of all days, the day of our fate.

More >
bottom of page