According to a recent Aish video I viewed , Tisha B’Av the Root of Destruction we were responsible for the source of evil on the initial Tisha B’av, namely crying without reason when the spies returned with their evil report of the Jewish people’s ability to enter and conquer the promised land. In my language I know this attitude better as ‘victim mode’, which is typically characterized by ‘poor me’, ‘I can’t’, ‘it isn’t fair’, and so on. And because we have not yet corrected that failing, the Messiah has not yet arrived and we continue to fast year after year commemorating this day of evil.
The idea that we are victims manifests in the attitude that are helpless, and of course the greatest victimhood of all —- is the lack of freedom to choose. According to Viktor Frankl, despite external circumstances that may put us at a very great disadvantage, we nevertheless always are free to choose our attitude toward our situation or our suffering even if it is not in our power to directly influence our external situation. And this is just what I understand as the avodah (service) of Tisha B’Av (ninth day of Av).
Our sages have directed us to focus on mourning on this day, to engage in studying only those subjects that cause us sadness such as the Holocaust, the Jewish history of persecution and suffering throughout the ages and even our own personal sorrows and woes. Who would not feel like a victim given immersion in this well of tears?
And yet, perhaps that is just the task and tikun (corrective) of this day, to feel to the depths of our soul, situations that arouse our grief while simultaneously maintaining and strengthening faith. Not to sink into victimhood, not to see our suffering as arbitrary but rather understand that G-d is telling us as it were, “Cling to Me in the darkest of nights, reveal your G-d-ly attributes in the face of this evil, and thereby light will be spread even in the darkest of places within the world.”
Like the sinner who is put to the test again and again to test his resolve with the same circumstances, the same energy, the same woman (or whatever the temptation), we suffer over and over again each year as the list of tragedies perpetrated against us mounts. And yet, that is just the test: do we give in to an attitude of victimhood and cry without hope, or do we choose to believe that faith in G-d is the only source of salvation from the abyss?