Bein Hametzarim: Journaling our Grief during the Three Weeks

The ancient rabbis understood the importance of honoring our pain for the world. Honoring our pain opens us to clarity, compassion, and courage; yet, it is often difficult in our contemporary culture to slow down and experience our pain, even as we witness so much brokenness all around.

The Jewish liturgical cycle offers us an opportunity in mid-summer to get in touch with our individual and communal grief.  The evening of July 10, 2017, marks the beginning of a mourning period known as the Three Weeks, or Bein hametzarim (literally, in the narrow places), a tender time for exploring our feelings around anticipating the destruction of the Temple.  The mourning period begins with the 17th of Tammuz, Shiva asar b'tammuz, a morning-to-evening fast day (Tuesday, July 11, 2017) commemorating the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem. Customs for the Three Weeks are reminiscent of the shiva period and include refraining from such pleasurable activities as listening to music and wearing new clothes. 

I invite you to join me this next three weeks in creating the space for lovingly honoring whatever feelings are arising in these challenging times.  I plan to create  art work to hang my home that will remind me that we are in a period of mourning.  I also plan to keep a grief journal, exploring different modalities such as collage, drawing, poetry, prose, and list-making, to allow spaciousness each day to honor my pain for our world.  

Here are some questions to reflect upon: 

1. What does Jerusalem represent for me at this time? What do I hold dear whose walls have been breached?  What is at stake to be lost with the destruction of Jerusalem?  

2. What news stories arouse my sadness and outrage?  

3. What am I most fearful about at this time?  When I let myself consider the worst case scenario, what arises?

4. In reading the haftarah of admonition for the week (there are three haftarot of admonition, starting with this coming Shabbat), what phrases speak to me?  (These can serve as writing prompts or inspiration for art.)

I welcome your reflections, questions, and insights with our class community as we move through the Three Weeks. 

May we be blessed with the courage to honor our grief.

Malkah Binah