In a few weeks, Jews around the world will commemorate Tisha B'av. The name of this day is a specific date, the 9th of Av. On this day, the 9th of Av, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed not once, but twice: first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and again by the Romans in the year 70 CE.
Tisha B'Av is a day of communal mourning. It is similar to Yom Kippur in its observance - Jews fast during Tisha B'Av and refrain from doing anything enjoyable. Since the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE, Tisha B'Av also commemorates the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, numerous pogroms, and other tragic events that have fallen on our people.
Of course, it is incredibly doubtful that all of these events transpired on the actual 9th of Av. But by placing many of our communal sadnesses into this one date, it gives us the chance to mourn together. It gives us a chance to heal together. A professor of mine said that the 9th of Av becomes a spiritual bucket for our misfortunes so that we can get on with our lives the other 364 days a year, otherwise, every day would be a day of mourning.
In the past few weeks, though, there have been many days of mourning - and in many ways, today is Tisha B'av. Racial tension, political discord, mass shootings ... this is not how we want to live, and this is not how God wants us to live.
Yesterday, over 80 people were mowed down by a truck driver in Nice, France. In recent months, we have mourned the senseless deaths in Turkey, Dallas, Brussels, Israel, Baghdad, Orlando. And of course the list can go on. It's as if The Temple is getting destroyed again, and again, and again ...
On Tisha B'Av, as we mourn the destruction of the temple, we read from the book of Lamentations:
How deserted lies the city,
once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
has now become a slave.
Lamentations is 5 chapters long, and is full of imagery of abandonment, loss and destruction. This book reminds us that we must learn how to lament - how to mourn. Too often, our mourning morphs into anger or blame. Instead of proposing solutions, or laying blame, the most appropriate response to tragedy is simply to be together to bear witness, to mourn, to lament.
Just before its conclusion, Lamentations offers us a bit of hope: Restore us to yourself, LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old. This is the same verse that we chant upon placing our Torah back inside of the ark.
It reminds us that we are never so far astray as to remove all manner of hope. But I don't think the onus is upon God to restore us. The responsibility is on ourselves. Generations after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, our rabbis taught us that the reason for the destruction of the Temple was Sinat Ha'Am - the hatred amongst people.
We still have not learned the lesson. Sinat Ha'am is very easy to find these days. When we can put an end to this senseless hate, we will be renewed as in days of old. The onus is indeed on us. Until then, God mourns alongside of us.
Today, each of us identifies with that painful book of Lamentations. The Sinat Ha'am of 2000 years ago is still with us. We still must head the lesson that indeed, we are our brother's keeper.
2000 years ago, the 2nd Temple was destroyed. I continue to pray for the day within our lifetimes that we do not add more tragic events to the commemoration of Tisha B'av.