Fragmentation is the very human experience of insecure and narrow thinking. Hence the root of “machlokes” – Hebrew for dispute – is “chelek,” or fragment.
Our Sages teach that while it’s always possible to get lost in a fragmented worldview, it’s in this time of year that we are most susceptible. Hence the spies’ report on this day of “Israel as death trap.” Hence the destruction – twice – on this day of our Temple, the connection between heaven and earth and source of wholeness in the world. As an aside, rates of violent crime always peak in summer.
Yet our Sages also point out that the messiah will be born on this day. There’s tremendous opportunity in fragmentation. I’d like to highlight the opportunity aspect of “fragmentation” with a story.
After Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt’s moving introduction to the principles of Innate Health, he immediately attempted to share his experience with his wife, Chana. She wasn’t interested. Life was good and she didn’t need “principles,” much less those of folks whose wellbeing seemed to come primarily from having grown kids out of the house and a home on a lake.
Over time, Chana’s experience grew more complicated. Life got busier, some of her kids became difficult teens, and she found herself feeling overwhelmed and agitated.
In her talk at the conference, she described a climactic experience when she walked to her husband’s office and proceeded to tell him hateful things. The moment she said them, she knew she didn’t mean them. Returning home, she described feeling like a little girl lost in an ocean, unable to do life.
And then she described her husband walking in two minutes later. He reassured her. “It’s going to be ok. We’re going to work this out,” he told her.
She was shocked. Where was his outrage? Where was his return fire? Not only wasn’t he furious, he was moved by her pain. The feeling of her smallness coupled with the hope of his expansiveness moved her. She started to learn. Fragmentation can lead to despair, but it can lead to humble yearning.
The opportunity of the 9th of Av is to experience the fragmentation intensely. We cannot do life with just our thinking. We are humbled, and yet we remember that the Creator, the source of all life and all thinking – is close at hand. He mourns with us and awaits our openness to the gift of a new and expansive outlook.