As the culmination of the Three Weeks of mourning, we begin this Saturday night the Fast of Tishah B'Av, marking the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem.
I have always been particularly moved by the rituals of the 9th of Av. In the heart of the summer, we gather late at night, sitting on the floor of the synagogue, lights dimmed, while we chant Megillat Eikhah, the Book of Lamentations, with a hallowing melody, as we read the description of absolute dread and horror that befell our people accompanied by a few select Kinot, dirges, with distinct melodies of their own. This day also include prohibitions that match those of Yom Kippur, with limitations on what we wear, sexual contact and a full 25 hour fast- from sunset to sunset. There is also a tradition to begin the fast by eating an egg covered with ashes, reminding us again of the destruction of the Temples, and even to limit Torah study.
And yet, there is an inherent hopefulness associated with the day. There is a tradition taught in Jerusalem Talmud, Berakhot 2:4 that the Mashiah will be born on the 9th of Av. I am quite moved by this suggestion: at the time of the greatest destruction and seed of hopelessness, we are introduced with a new hope. The penultimate verse of Eikhah is repeated out loud by the entire congregation and echos this sentiment.
הֲשִׁיבֵ֨נוּ יְהֹוָ֤ה ׀ אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ וְֽנָשׁ֔וּבָה חַדֵּ֥שׁ יָמֵ֖ינוּ כְּקֶֽדֶם׃
Take us back, O LORD, to Yourself, And let us come back; Renew our days as of old!
Nashuvah: I pray that we use this time to pay close attention to the hurt and destruction around us, the pain we cause, witness and experience, and use this time to imagine and dream up a more beautiful and just world.