Sunday marks the blackest day in the Jewish calendar - Tisha B'Av which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. It is a sombre day of national mourning for the Jewish world when we neither drink nor eat for 25 hours; we do not wear leather shoes or engage in any kind of enjoyment. We also curtail all forms of happiness in the three weeks leading up to Tisha B'Av.
Such sombre behaviour goes against normal Jewish behaviour of being happy. The Torah actually admonishes us if we do not keep its commandments with joy. So how can we observe such a sad day?
This same question was asked of Rabbi Yoshe Ber of Brisk by a free thinker: "Rebbe," he said: "Why do we need the three weeks of mourning over the destruction of the Temple? Couldn't we do without it?" "I will tell you a story," said Rabbi Yoshe Ber."Once there was a fire in a town and many people lost all their possessions. Some went sifting through the ashes to see what they might yet salvage, while others left everything as it was. Almost inevitably, whoever went through the ashes rebuilt his house soon after the fire, while the others generally never rebuilt their homes."The Rabbi continued: “As long as we mourn for Jerusalem and the Temple that was destroyed, we can be sure that it will be rebuilt one day."
Ecclesiastes phrases this statement of the Jewish attitude to life experiences: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
Although we all pray for a life for of happiness and joy, life is not all a bed of roses and we have at time confront the challenges, trials and tribulations. Confronting them can make us stronger.
Tisha B’Av offers us an opportunity to communally mourn and confront some of the greatest the calamities to befall the Jewish people (the liturgy also contains a powerful poem to commemorate the Holocaust). By immersing ourselves in sadness, we have an opportunity to emerge to enjoy great happiness with the eventual rebuilding of the Temple. As the Talmud teaches us – one who joins in mourning the destruction of the Temple, will merit the joy of its rebuilding.