Of all the days in the Jewish year, the three weeks and nine days leading up to Tisha Bav is usually considered a big inconvenience and a big relief when it is all over so we can go back and truly enjoying the summer. Rav Solovietchik once wrote “Human happiness does not depend on comfort. The American Jew follows a philosophy which equates religion with making Jewish life more comfortable and convenient. It enables the Jew to have more pleasures in life. This is a philosophy that de-emphasizes Jewish spiritual values.”
What is striking about Tisha bav is it is the one day that we actively attempt to push away our comforts. We try to understand suffering and this is important. Suffering makes us human; it makes us more compassionate. When we go to a shiva call, visit a hospital or help someone poor or in pain, it changes us and makes us appreciate all that we have and how lucky we are. So we spend the day on the floor, fasting, crying and trying to comprehend the suffering and loss that we as a nation have experience over the centuries.
Through our collective suffering, we as a people come together. On Yad Vashem before it was renovated there was a phrase “Forgetfulness leads to exile, while remembrance is the secrete of our redemption.” Just like a family comes together at a time of suffering, the Jewish people come together by our collective suffering. Rav Moshe Feinstein, when asked about children and Tisha Bav, writes that every year that the Beit HaMikdash is not rebuilt it is as if it has just been destroyed and although children lack the true understanding they too should be introduced to this reality and mature into it.
With Tisha Bav we are all somewhat like children in our trying to comprehend the suffering. I once heard a fitting analogy. A little child loses his mother in childbirth. Every year the father makes a big deal about her yahrzeit and tells stories about her so the son can appreciate his mother. The child grows up and sees that he is missing something; he has no mother coming to his plays and has no one to hug him like only a mother can. But still he can’t really appreciate the loss because he never met his mother. He never had that special relationship with her.
This is how we feel on Tisha Bav. We never had that close relationship yet we are trying to grab on to what it could have been like and what it might be like in the future. Tisha Bav is about that loss of relationship with our creator. Tisha Bav is about thousands of years of suffering and Tisha Bav is about the loss of pride we had in being Jews. For the 25 hours of Tisha Bav we will to try to bring that message home. We are going to do so with prayer, poetry, stories and sad songs. We are going to read about our losses and try to come up with a message with which we can move towards the future (based on an article by Dr. Erica Brown found in her book "In the Narrow Places").