Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


My Favorite Things

How I learned to love Tisha B’av

Print Email
Tisha B’Av 2009.(Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

I’ve never known much about the religious meaning of Tisha B’Av, which falls today—I’ve never fasted for it, and until Tablet Magazine published its FAQ about the holiday this week, didn’t know that not only the destruction of both Temples but an entire litany of disasters are said to have befallen the Jews on this day. But I remembered this morning that, in a macabre inside joke with myself, it says in my staff bio that Tisha B’Av is my favorite fast day. I want to explain why.

I was an extremely phobic young child—bees, fire, elevators, lawnmowers, forklifts. My most incapacitating fears, though, and the ones that took the longest to get over, involved dozens of books, videos, and songs, ones that, according to the logic of a symbolic universe I can no longer really explain, included elements of horror. So, for example, Volume 8 in the Sesame Street Library, with its two-page spread on Old King Cole and its introduction to the letter Q, may seem innocuous to the average reader, but its tale of Hansel and Gretel absolutely terrified me.

That’s not actually the weird part—as Bruno Bettelheim could tell you, the whole point of fairy tales is to help children process their fears in abstract terms—but my particular mechanism for dealing with such situations was to a) hide the offending book in some distant corner of the house and b) from that safe distance, reclaim any symbols associated with it as my “favorite things.” So in this case, 8 (as in Volume) became my favorite number (it still is); purple (as in the color of the Count, who appears on the book’s cover) became my favorite color; and so on. I’m sure there’s a proper name for this coping strategy somewhere in the psychoanalytic literature, and I would love to know what it is.

One item in my pantheon of fear was an illustrated guide to the Jewish holidays. I’ve long forgotten the name of the book and nearly everything else about it, but the scary part still sticks in my mind: A full-page abstract image, in the section on Tisha B’Av, of gray smokestacks against a dark orange sky. I must have been about five when I came upon this picture, but while I was too young to make the explicit connection with the Holocaust, I knew a Shoah when I saw one. The book was hidden. And, as my puzzled kindergarten teacher eventually found out, Tisha B’Av became my “favorite holiday.” My mom still calls me every year to remind me.

That Tisha B’Av illustration is still one of the first things I picture when I picture the Holocaust, which in itself later became—well, I don’t want to call it my “favorite genocide,” but it was a historical event I assiduously avoided and just as assiduously obsessed over. In retrospect, it’s almost like my entire psychological mechanism was designed specifically for that purpose. It makes me wonder if the proper psychoanalytic term isn’t, simply, Judaism.

Print Email

Howdy intelligent points.. now why didn’t i consider these? Off topic barely, is that this web page sample merely from an unusual installation or else do you utilize a personalized template. I exploit a webpage i searching for to improve and effectively the visuals is probably going one of the key things to finish on my list.

In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselvesÖ self-discipline with all of them came first.

Aldous Huxley~ The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age which means never losing your enthusiasm.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

My Favorite Things

How I learned to love Tisha B’av

More on Tablet:

How To Make Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables

By Joan Nathan — Video: Filled with warm rice and unexpected spices, they’re perfect for a cool autumn night—as a side dish or vegetarian entree