Friday, July 27, 2012

Tisha B'av: Do mothers have time to mourn?

Tisha B’av is coming up.

It’s been looming in the back of my mind like a horrible, dehydrated monster for the past few weeks.

Why? Well, for most people it’s the most difficult fast day of the year. But when you’re nine months pregnant? Forget about it.

Our rabbi said I have to fast until I can’t anymore.

Which means that if I feel sick or any weird movements in my stomach, I can eat and drink. Reassuring, but still daunting.

Especially because I have a one year old baby to take care of, adorable in everything she does but a handful nonetheless. And did I mention I’m nine months pregnant?

So yes, Tisha B’av has been on my mind.

 In previous years, it was on my mind for different reasons. I used to prepare for it by listening to shiurim or reading through Megillat Eicha. On the day of, I used to watch Holocaust movies or clips on Youtube about the eviction from Gush Katif.

This year, I haven’t done my prep work. Not that I haven’t wanted to, I just haven’t really had the time or energy. And on the day of? It’s just not that plausible that my daughter will allow me to sit back and watch movies because she grasps the heaviness of the day.

Nope, not gonna happen.

So I will need to focus on her. And I feel guilty for this. I want to be mourning with the rest of the Jewish world, mourning the loss of a utopia unimaginable, the Jewish lives that were destroyed and the suffering that our people went through for so many years.

And yet, I’m prevented by doing this because I'm a mother, because of my physicality, by the fear of fasting and the impact it will have on my ability to care for my daughter. Not to mention the fear of going into premature labor. Which even though I’ve joked that I wouldn’t mind at this point, in all seriousness, no one really wants to go into fasting-induced labor.

But I need to get over it.

I need to accept that at this point in my life, there’s a new way of serving God for me. And it means that I don’t need to feel guilty for putting my daughter before everything; this is my role as a mother, as a Jewish mother. So even though I can’t mourn as I’ve done in the past doesn’t mean I’m a bad Jew. On the contrary, I can feel proud for getting myself and my daughter through the day in one piece.

The trick is not just to know this, but to believe it.
Epilogue: I ended up being sick the whole day and was allowed to eat. Then I felt guilty because a large brunt of the childcare fell on my husband. (There's always something to feel guilty about.) Thank God, he's an amazing faster and is always ready to help.


  1. What comforted me is that the fast was a nidche this year, so there really was more "wiggle room."

    But I wish this topic would have been covered more in high school and seminary. I feel like the actual mourning is something that's discussed and taught and emphasized, but the pregnancy/parenting stage and how that affects Tisha B'Av mourning? Not so much.

    1. Absolutely agree. I feel like my Jewish education trained me to be a really "frum" Jew - but didn't address what happens when you become a mother and don't have time to do the really "frum" stuff.
      Of course, if I would have been taught to find fulfillment through taking care of my children, I probably would have thought my school was old-fashioned and sexist.