One of the mourning customs we adopt from Rosh Chodesh Av until the ninth of Av is refraining from doing laundry. In times gone by, laundry was an all-day activity, and our Sages did not want our minds to be preoccupied by laundering when they should instead be focusing on the intense pain of Galus, exile. Today, despite easy-to-use washing machines, we still refrain from doing laundry, except for washing the clothes of young children in certain circumstances. So every Av, my laundry room slowly but surely accumulates a mountain of dirty, wrinkled, bedraggled clothes. And they sit there, woebegone, as I pretend to turn a blind eye.
You might think it would be a relief, of sorts, to be unbound to my washing machine for nine whole days. But instead I find myself finding it irritating and frustrating. That pile will build and I am powerless to stop it. It will wait for me, until the tenth of Av, at which point I will become a maniacal laundress, switching loads and folding for an entire day--maybe two--to catch up.
Today I was blessed with a new insight into my laundry distress. I thought of the clothes piling up, spilling over the hampers and onto the floors, looking unsightly--a blight on my home. I thought of the way the dirty clothes encroach on my private space, crowd me out, in a sense, of my (sometimes) tidy home. How the Master becomes the indentured servant; how the tables are turned and the state-of-the-art washing machine yawns, confused.
And I thought how apt it is for me to be feeling this way in Av. Crowded out of my own home? Held back from indulging in the pleasures of clean clothes? Feeling vaguely uncomfortable every time I walk into my laundry room? Yeah. It is a very miniscule microcosm of how Hashem must feel. Chased out of his Home by our relentless sins. Held back from enjoying the pleasure of His children doing His will. Waiting...hoping...that maybe today He can come back in and make right everything that is wrong.
More tragic than the mourning is the floundering realization that we may not even be aware of what we're mourning for.