I don’t like Eicha. I don’t like kinos. I don’t like listening to videotaped mussar speeches. Why not? Well, I want to throw out some intelligent sociological reason to make it seem like I do things because I’m smarter than the rest of the plebes, but I feel stupid lying anonymously to other anonymous people over the internet.
So it’s not because the language is archaic, or that I’m desensitized to graphic descriptions, or even that modern Jewish tragedies emotionally dwarf something that took place in antiquity. Those all sound nice and logical. But the real reason is because They made me do it. They forced me to do it when I didn’t want to and terrified me with horrible things that would happen if I didn’t.
Care about the Bais Hamikdash being destroyed! Care about us losing Yerushalaim 2000 years ago! Didn’t you just sing, “If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my tongue stick to my pallet” ? You know you had better care, because God gets mad at people who don’t care about his Bais Hamikdash. The unspoken undercurrent to all this was, Who knows what that psycho will do?
Even the gruesome parts about things that happened to the people back then were taught to me in the same vain. Here, use this. Use this imagery of our ancestors being slaughtered to evoke some emotion. Do whatever it takes to make it look like you care about the Temple, and the sacrifices, and all that. In some deep subconscious recess of my parents’ and Rebbeim’s minds, it was probably saying, I hope you understand, child, I’m trying to protect you.
Now that I’m an adult, I’ve distanced myself to some extent from the community and the childhood fears. It wasn’t an intentional thing. I’m still part of the community. I just also became part of the outside world. And then, slowly, kind of automatically, it crept in that this is America, and most people aren’t out to get me, and probably not God either.
He probably doesn’t demand fealty just because he’s in charge. He might want me to be a free, happy person. He might even want me to be “self-actualized”, like I learned about in a treifeh psychology class in college.
Hmm, let me think that through. Maybe what God wants most of me is to be a good person. To help out those weaker than me, and stand up to the bullies in lfe. To trust that he always has my back, so I’ll be able to move forward even when I’m scared. Maybe all the Mitzvos, the rituals and prayers, are entirely meaningless when they’re aimed at trying to appease an insecure psycho in the sky.
Of course, I may be deluded and wrong. But it seems to me that this is exactly what the prophet Isaiah put as the very first chapter of his book 2500 years ago.