This Saturday evening, we will be commemorating the fast of Tisha B'Av, the 9th of Av. It is considered a national day of mourning. According to tradition, the 9th of Av is not only the date in which both temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, but the date in which several tragic and destructive incidents have befallen the Jewish people throughout Jewish history.
Coincidentally, we read about one of those tragic incidents that took place on the 9th of Av in this week's Torah portion,
Parashat Devarim. In our parasha, Moses begins to recount the travels of the Israelites as they have been wandering through the desert. In doing so, Moses highlights the incident in which the spies were sent out ahead of the Israelites to scout the land. They returned with a discouraging report which sent the Israelites into panic, demonstrating their lack of faith in each other and God. It was this report and their lack of faith, which served as the catalysts for God's punishing the Israelites to wander in the desert for forty years. According to the the Talmud (Masechet Taanit) the spies returned and delivered their report on the 9th of Av.
While Tisha B'Av is a national day of mourning, next Shabbat on the calendar, next weekend is Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of comfort. Additionally, each and every Shabbat between now and the High Holy Days, we will be reading a special Haftarah of comfort and consolation. By coming together and being there for one another during these special Shabbatot of comfort and consolation, the Rabbis are trying to help us retain and strengthen our faith in each other, and God, during a difficult period of time when we are supposed to reflect on all of our mistakes and what we have done wrong.
Amidst difficult and challenging times, it can be easy to lose faith. Which is why it is my hope and prayer for all of us that we can learn from the ancient Israelites missteps. In the wake of whatever challenges and difficulties we may be experiencing as individuals and as a community, when we come together to pray together and to be together, we can be a source of comfort, consolation and support for one another. May we use the power of our community and prayer, to strengthen our faith and commitment to Jewish tradition, Jewish community, one another, and God.