Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Tisha B'Av Story

My cousin M and his wife L, who normally live in Jerusalem, arrived in my city to visit my family yesterday—and told me the following story.

M and L flew straight to my house from Toronto, where they stayed with L’s family for the nine days. Like the rest of klal Yisrael, they went to hear Eicha on motzai shabbos. When they came home, they got into an intense discussion with L’s father about the horrifically tragic occurrences described in the megillah. M asserted that these atrocities are not as distant as we generally assume. Many similarly terrifying things happened at the time of the Holocaust, and since we are still in galus, no one should ever feel overly secure.

With these thoughts in their minds, they went to bed.

At four in the morning L was awakened by a thunderous boom, as she felt the house shaking beneath her. Shocked, she shook M awake and declared: “Canada is under attack!” More explosions followed, and soon the entire family had gathered, awake and in a panic, trying to determine what was happening. From the window they could see a gigantic column of orange flame licking the sky, and a mushroom cloud of billowing smoke—and it wasn’t so far away.

No one had any idea what was going on. Petrified, they only knew that giant fireballs were illuminating the night sky nearby—and that it was Tisha B’Av. L’s parents made a rapid decision. They gathered up their family, their pets, and their passports, packed into the car, and started driving north, toward L’s father’s office.

They took refuge in his office, waiting to hear an accurate report of what had happened. As daylight broke, they heard: a propane plant had exploded. The area was being evacuated.

Relieved that the truth was far more benign than they had originally assumed, they staked out spaces for themselves on various pieces of furniture and tried to sleep. At 2 pm they were finally allowed to go back to their undamaged house.

Though they ended up sleeping almost until mincha once they finally got to real beds, their experience this Tisha B’Av was in way far more profound than a day, like mine, spent listening to Tisha B'Av appropriate shiurim.

They experienced, firsthand, the fear that characterizes this day in Jewish history. Their eyes witnessed images of destruction that the rest of us only conjured in imagination. They realized that in exile, tragedy is tangible, security nonexistent. Their Tisha B’Av was manifested in action, not just thought.

Thank God, it was a false alarm, and for the most part there were only minor injuries as a result of the explosion--though, tragically, one firefighter perished. May this be the last Tisha B’Av spent in exile; the final year of mourning for the Beis Hamikdash. May our tears next year be tears of joy, as we gather together in Jerusalem.

And let’s hope Toronto stays safe, too.


Northern Light said...

Amen to your wishes...what a moving post. What a scary story at a profound time...we Jews do not believe in coincidence!

the apple said...

Wow, that's scary. But good to know they are safe.

And NL is right - definitely no such thing as a coincidence in Judaism!

M said...

Wow. What a story. Well described.