The sun may have smiled over the horizon like all days previous, but today is not a regular day. It is unnaturally different.

You see, last night was the eve of the Ninth of Av.

We have been invited, on this inauspicious date, to experience yet another wave from the abysmal ocean of Jewish pain. Individually and collectively, we have suffered terribly over thousands of years, and we remember it all. No Jew, regardless of affiliation, can recount the words of Lamentations and comprehend its ancient phrases without flinching.

Our relationship has been temporarily damagedYesterday afternoon, well before the sun had slept, I had stopped eating and drinking, and removed my leather footwear. Later, in the darkness of night, I huddled on a dim synagogue’s overturned bench to accompany an uncomfortable congregation in softly bewailing millennia of inhuman suffering.

Now it is morning, and the world grows brighter.

It is time to confront my Creator in prayer.

Nevertheless, the Ninth of Av persists.

On a regular morning, I would have donned an angelic tallit. Were it not the Ninth of Av, I would have stood armed and crowned with tefillin, the dignified sign of G‑d’s bond with His people.

But not today.

Our relationship has been temporarily damaged.

On this miserable morning, I stand before G‑d hungry and unwashed, undignified and unadorned, overwhelmed with the memory of countless holocausts unique to the people of His covenant.

What, then, I wonder with frustration, am I supposed to do with these stubborn words that refuse to remove themselves from my prayer book?

Ahavat olam ahavtanu . . .

Today, like all days, we exclaim, “Our G‑d, You have loved us with eternal love!”

But today is not like all days, and this prayer now seems inappropriate, if not insensitive. Just for once, perhaps, the words should be changed to “Our G‑d, You have smitten us with eternal suffering!”

No, this prayer remains unfazed by the Ninth of Av. Its love will not waver despite a history of relentless agony.

Why is that, I wonder? Can I really recite words of undying love with the memory of past lamentations pounding in my heart, compounded by the suffering of the present?

Where is the affection, where is G‑d’s compassion and concern for His cherished nation?

I freeze; the Ninth of Av threatens to completely sabotage my devotion.

But it’s true!

The bizarre reality hits me; my prayerbook has not lied.

Is it not strange that despite all we have encountered in history, the Jewish people still desire G‑d’s closeness?

The Ninth of Av threatens to completely sabotage my devotionAfter Emperor Hadrianus Augustus savagely ravaged Judea, the tortured Jews sought to write new Torah scrolls and rebuild their synagogues. Bleeding in the Colosseum and tied to the stake, Jews died with the Shema on their lips; they found comfort in knowing that some members of their nation would survive and inevitably build a new cheder to transmit to the next generation G‑d’s law and eternal love.

This is a uniquely Jewish phenomenon. Ultimately, this is what makes us Jews. But what on earth is it?

Certainly, individuals and groups give up and walk out on G‑d—but either they or their descendants return. Even if a generation or two of Jews conspire to suffocate millennia of love, they will fail, for their grandchildren or great-grandchildren will find it unexpectedly alive in their hearts.

Yes, our attachment to G‑d is not confined to the limits of mortal minds or feelings. It is superhuman, irrational and indestructible. Even we who bear this attachment fail to understand, yet it persists within us, despite us. It defies the greatest suppression, and remains undefeated by the mighty force of time.

Despite the gravity of suffering that causes us to stand on this Ninth of Av without tallit and tefillin, hungry and heartbroken, we nonetheless find ourselves inside a synagogue filled with congregants devoted to G‑d’s worship. Incredible!

From where, I wonder, does this eternal bond originate? If it is beyond the realm of human understanding and production, then it simply cannot be of our own making. It is certainly not human.

The answer reveals itself like a breathtaking dawn.

Our enchantment with G‑d is a powerful reflection of His love for us. Our love is divine. We can nurture it or try to ignore it, but it does not originate with us, and we cannot stamp it out.


Because our G‑d loves us with eternal love.

We carry G‑d’s own emotion within our mortal hearts. And it is the infinity of that emotion that has made our nation indestructible.

We carry G‑d’s own emotion within our mortal heartsBy now, my temptation to alter the prayer text to scream an indignant protest has faded. Those problematic words have now connected me with centuries of Jews past, my soul-brethren. I am fortified by the prayers of millions of victorious victims, all lovers of G‑d, beloved by G‑d. I sense a wonder that precedes Sinai and outranks Creation, and assures my survival through the messianic resurrection of the dead. I may be mortal, but part of me is divine. As a Jew, I own an imperishable portion of G‑d’s own love.

Yes, it is the morning of the Ninth of Av, but I am no longer hungry.

I feel satisfied—eternally.