This post is dedicated in merit that Hershel ben Etya Sarah have a yeshuah.By Jackie Ross
Sunset of August 13 marks the start of Tisha B'Av - the Ninth of Av (This year the fast fell on Shabbat so we push it off to the tenth of AV.) It is a day observed like Yom Kippur - no eating, drinking, bathing or putting on lotions, relations between a husband and wife, or wearing leather. The one difference is that it is not observed like Shabbat where we can't do work - so we can drive and use electricity. Also, we act like those who are sitting shiva, in mourning: we don't sit on regular chairs (at least until mid-day the next day), we try not to use luxuries (many people have the custom to not use a pillow while sleeping). This is all to remind us we are in mourning for the Beit Hamikdash and the lack of G-d's clear presence in this world.
We've already discussed the dark period in Jewish history that occurs this time of year. From the Three Weeks to the Nine Days, the summer is a time of sad memories for the Jewish people. You don't need to look much further than today's headlines to see this is a time of national danger. Some point to the sin of the Golden Calf, which occurred on the ninth, as the first instance of national tragedies that coincide with this time. Also while wandering in the desert the Jews had another painful incident - this is the day when the spies returned from their survey of Eretz Yisrael and reported back that the land was full of monsters and impossible to conquer, which was incredibly painful for the Jews who had been taken out of slavery in Egypt to hear. As with other dates on the Jewish calendar, the ninth of Av isn't an anniversary of bad things that happened on this date, but a period of time where bad things are more likely to occur.
Using the term 'bad things' is putting it lightly. On this date the First and Second Temples were destroyed, the year after the Jewish uprising against the Romans, known as Bar Kochba's Rebellion, was put down by the Romans. All on the same date, the Roman ruler Turnus Rufus raised not only the Second Temple, but the entire area, which had been built into a beautiful plaza by Herod the Great. All that remains of the Second Temple today is the Western Wall, known as the Kotel, where Jews have flocked for two thousand years.
Many expulsions of Jews from Western Europe occurred on this day - first from England in 1290 C.E., then France in 1309, and most famously from Spain in 1492. World War I began on this day, which of course lead to World War II. In more recent history, the disengagement of Jews from their homes in Gush Katif (Gaza) was scheduled to happen on this day in 2005, but when someone pointed out to the Prime Minister, it was changed to the 10th of Av.
What is this day all about? Why do such horrible things happen year after year? There are many answers to this question, but here is one to consider: these events only occur when there is no Beit Hamikdash, no Temple, standing. Without G-d's presence in the world through the Temple things don't make sense. Horrible things happen and people are horrible to each other. This isn't the way life is supposed to be. We always say something to the extent of, "Hopefully Moshiach will come this year before the 9th, so we won't have to fast," but that is not the right way of looking at it. We should be asking ourselves why, thousands of years later, we are still fasting. Our Sages say that every generation that lives without a Beit Hamikdash, it is as if they were as guilty as those who were in the generation when it was destroyed. These are harsh words, but they tell us that we are responsible. It's not that one person individually can make or break the whole thing, but collectively we are responsible. Every year that passes we should be asking ourselves what can we do to make the world a better place, more conducive to having the Beit Hamikdash return. Things like not gossiping, not hating your fellow Jew for no reason, not bearing a grudge, honoring your parents. These are the things that are keeping the Beit Hamikdash from being rebuilt.
May we learn to beat the destructive habits that cause us to continue living in exile - both from the Temple and from each other, so that next year Tisha B'Av may finally be a holiday.