This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.
By: Samantha Hulkower
According to the Jewish Calendar, we are now in a period known as the 'Nine Days' - the time from the first of the month of Av until Tisha B'Av, literally the 9th of Av. This date is significant because it is when both Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, amongst numerous other tragedies in Jewish history. During this period of time, we observe various customs associated with mourning - such as not doing laundry, cutting our hair, or eating meat. This is done in order to bring us to a place where we can really appreciate the discomfort and loss that we should be associating with the build up to the 9th of Av.
After over 2,000 years without a Temple in Jerusalem, it can be hard to identify with what has been assigned to be a time of mourning. Are we really observing the signs of someone sitting shiva over the loss of a building?
So what is it that we are really mourning? At this point in time, we're mourning the loss of something that we don't know, that we can't appreciate. That there was once a period of time when Israel was the center of the thriving Jewish world, and the whole country was prosperous. There is an idea that each Jew's actions brought G-d's presence not only into the Temple, but into themselves. Therefore, when their actions caused the Temple to ultimately be destroyed (both times), not only was the sacred building destroyed, but as Rav Wolbe put it, so was each person's internal greatness. The nine days is also known as a dangerous time, because we've lost our ability to function as one. Jews and Israel are strongest when we are unified. The nation of Israel is referred to as a family, and families are only at their best when there isn't internal strife, otherwise their more susceptible to the hardships life throws at them.
Knowing all of this, it is interesting that Tisha B'Av is actually considered to be a mo'ed - often translated as holiday. What is special about this period of time is that while we are mourning our distance from G-d and where the Jewish people could be, we are recognizing that there was a time that we had this connection, and that there is the potential for us to be there again. It's the distance we're experiencing that leads us to understanding the closeness that can exist, and will again one day.
During these nine days, there is a great potential in the air - every little step we take to bridge the gap and become closer with each other is much more powerful than at any other time of the year. Let us all take the time to think about little changes that could lead to a big difference. If you see a Jew observing his or her Judaism differently than you - don't judge them. If you have a class with someone or work with someone that you find to be incredibly annoying, instead of complaining about them, or just quietly being aggravated, look for something within them that makes them human and that you can connect to. If we are able to look past our differences, and instead focus on what we have in common - that we are all Jews with hopes and dreams and fears who want to love and be loved - that's all we need to start repairing ourselves and the world.