Tisha B'Av: How do we find
meaning during this time? On this day, Jews around the world fast to mourn the
destruction of the Holy Temple, where G-d's presence was felt. As we lament the destruction of the Temple,
which was a place of communal gathering, we can also look beneath the surface to
The prophet Zachariah’s writings discuss our rise from the desolation and our rebuilding of the world. Rabbi Akiva stated his belief in Zachariah’s prophecy. Knowing this can transform our entire experience, we can approach Tisha B’Av with hope and clarity in anticipation of the final redemption. We can find meaning in life if we learn to change our perspective.
Rabbi Dessler writes in his book Strive for Truth (part 3, p. 226), “that reality is relative to the observer”. He continues by giving an example. Abraham and his son Isaac perceived G-d’s glory over the mountain but their servants did not. What Abraham and Isaac were seeing was not a hallucination but rather, relative to their higher spiritual level. This indicates that two people can look at the exact same event but emerge with two different perspectives. One can look at the world superficially, whereas the other can look at the world meaningfully.
Positive Psychology places importance in living our lives with meaningfulness. The journey to finding meaning in life is associated with four core human needs (Baumeister & Vohs, 2005):
1. Purpose. Present events draw meaning from their correlation to future events.
2. Values. These can explain why certain courses of action were taken.
3. Efficacy. With efficacy, we believe in our ability to make a difference.
4. Self-worth. When we have self-worth, we believe we are good and worthy people.
Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author, remembers that his time in the camps led him to ponder life’s meaning. Frankl did not believe that meaning in life is in any way associated with comfort. Rather, a person could find solace in the everyday realities of life. Frankl mentioned that finding meaning is like learning chess: there is no single best move and there is no best meaning in life.
Frankl believed life’s meaning was created in response to circumstances. In this process, we must take full responsibility for our actions in order to realize life’s meaning. Finding meaning in life, Frankl continues, is a result of a self-transcendent lifestyle rather than a self-actualizing lifestyle. Therefore, the self-transcendent person is the manifestation of Frankl’s ideal of optimal, psychological well-being. The self-transcendent person is able to rise above his own concerns and seek higher meaning and purpose in life.
This Tisha B’Av, we can find meaning in our actions by looking at events with the right perspective in order to become spiritually elevated. By focusing on achieving meaning and applying it to our everyday lives, we can shift our perspective, which will lead to the Final Redemption.