It was a long summer Shabbat afternoon, and the kids had been playing so nicely together. For at least two hours, their imaginations took them to faraway lands and familiar locales. They played Abba and Ima (Daddy and Mommy); they made a pizza shop and cooked. The youngest had a birthday party, and the oldest built a city. They ate their Shabbat treats happily, and you could hear laughter and giggling.

All of a sudden, something happened. I don’t even know what. Maybe it was now his turn to be Abba? Maybe she now wanted to put the pizza in the “oven”? The peace was shattered. I heard some screaming and crying. Annoyed, I put down the book that I had been reading and barged into their room. “Can’t you get along?!” I asked self-righteously. “You guys are always fighting!”“Can’t you get along? You guys are always fighting!”

From your objective standpoint, you probably realize how ridiculous I sounded and how mistakenly I acted. (Now, I certainly do!) For two hours, three children of three different ages and maturity levels played wonderfully together, and after one minute of fighting, I had already painted a picture of constant strife. I let the one minute overshadow the two hours, and I let my mouth speak before my eyes could see the real picture.

Doesn’t this happen to us so often? You have a wonderful day, and then one person says one thing to you that irritates or insults you, and that’s it, your entire day is ruined. You make a delicious meal, full of savory and healthy dishes, and yet you can’t get over the one small side dish that had a tad too much salt. Your relationship with a person is 95% good and pleasant, and yet you focus and focus on that 5% that isn’t so good. Why are we like that? Why does that happen?

My answer is . . . quicksand. Yes, quicksand! At least, that’s what I like to call it.

What exactly is quicksand? Quicksand is something that sucks you in, pulls you under, and doesn’t let you see anything but dirt.

The nation of Israel was about to enter the Land of Israel. Moses sent twelve delegates to spy out the land. They had a mission: Bring back a report of the Promised Land before we enter. Why was this necessary? It wasn’t—G‑d had made a promise to them that the land was good and would be good for them (and G‑d had been performing miracles for them on a daily basis, including the ten plagues and the splitting of the sea). But the people asked for it. Commentators explain that Moses was hesitant, but went ahead and fulfilled the nation’s request, reasoning, “Let them go and see how good it is; then they will come back and tell of the goodness, and the nation will enter with confidence.”

The delegates returned after forty days, on the 8th of the month of Av, bringing with them incredibly large fruits, a sign of blessing and plenty. Two of the men came back with words of encouragement. One of them, Caleb, said, “We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it!” But the majority, ten men, came back and scared the nation. At first they admitted that indeed it was a land which “flows with milk and honey.” They showed the incredible fruits and then continued, “But, the people that dwells in the land is powerful . . . the land through which we have passed, to spy out it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants! All the people that we saw in it were men of measures . . . We were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so were we in their eyes!”1

The nation heard this and nothing else. Night descended and the people became despondent. “All the congregation lifted up their voice and cried, and the people wept that night . . . And each man said to the other: ‘Let us . . . return to Egypt.’”2

The Talmud explains: That night was Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the month of Av). G‑d said to them, “You wept for no reason, and thus I shall set [this day] for you as a time of weeping throughout the generations.”3

Many years later, both the First and Second Temples were destroyed on this day. The city of Beitar was captured. Jerusalem was plowed under. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain enforced the expulsion of Spanish Jewry on Tisha B’Av. World War I, which led to World War II and the Holocaust, also began on this day. Tisha B’Av is a national day of mourning.

When will the crying stop?

In part, when we start seeing and focusing on the 95% that is openly good to us, and stop crying and talking about the 5% that appears bad. When we jump over the quicksand, instead of allowing ourselves to be drawn into the muck of overreacting and negativity. When we take the time to look and really see the whole picture before judging and jumping to the wrong conclusions.

On Tisha B’Av, Jews all over the world sit on the floor and weep, reading the book of Lamentations (Eichah). The first chapter of the book is written poetically according to the order of the Hebrew alphabet, from aleph to tav. But in the subsequent chapters, the letters ayin and peh are reversed. The letter ayin is also the word for “eye,” and the letter peh means “mouth.” With the reversal of the order of the letters, the prophet writes, “All our enemiesWhen will the crying stop? have opened their mouths wide against us. We had terror and pitfalls, desolation and ruin. My eyes shed torrents of water over the destruction of the daughter of my people. My eye streams and is not silent, without respite . . .”4

On Tisha B’Av we are reminded that our crying, our yelling, our jumping to conclusions, our saying whatever first comes to our mouth—all this blinds our eyes from seeing the good that we have. And if we are blinded by our words, we can’t see the beautiful fruit, the milk and honey. We miss seeing the sparks of light and holiness that exist within each other and in our Holy Land.

If I could replay the moment, I would have done it differently. I would have complimented my children on all the time that they spent playing peacefully together. I would have praised them for their ideas and for their creativity. I would have asked them to share with me what they enjoyed most. And I would have told them that I had confidence in their ability to come up with a solution to the problem that provoked the little bit of crying.

This Tisha b’Av, let us return the ayin and peh to their proper order, and pray for a day full of happiness instead of suffering.