This Shabbat is the 9th of Av, Tish B’Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples, the destructions of Jerusalem, and exiles of our ancestors. Our first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and our second temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Tisha B’Av is our day of national mourning, a strict, 25-hour fast, second in importance only to Yom Kippur. Despite its severity, this year Tisha B’Av is superceded by Shabbat, a dau whose holiness surpasses all but Yom Kippur. Since Shabbat is a day of mandated celebration we are not permitted to fast or practice other forms of mourning. As a result, this year, the observance of Tisha B’Av gets postponed by a day; we fast on the tenth of Av, from Saturday night until Sunday night, instead.
While tradition tells us that the First Temple was destroyed because the Israelites were guilty of rampant murder, idolatry and adultery, the Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, one Jew’s hatred of another merely for having different opinions. Rabbi Kook (1865-1935) is quoted as saying that if Jerusalem was once destroyed because of baseless hate, Jerusalem will be rebuilt because of baseless love.
The famous Rabbi Akiva, who himself lived through and witnessed the destruction of the Second Temple when he was 30, and was burned to death by the Romans about 65 years later, said that the most important principle of the Torah is “Love your neighbour when s/he is like yourself.” But that is quite an easy task. The challenge is to be committed to love one another as we love ourselves even when s/he is completely unlike us. But, indeed, increasing this spirit of mutual love, respect, understanding and co-existence is the only thing that can heal our very broken world. It all depends on us.