The ninth day of this month is a fast day that is the culmination of three weeks of mourning over the loss of the holy Temple of Jerusalem. This is a sad time of year, and we express our grief through the traditional mourning customs; no meat, no wine, no bathing for pleasure, etc. When a loved one passes away, the mourning customs allow a person to let the emotions that are inside come to the surface. This is part of the emotional healing process of loss. The month of Av, on the other hand, has the same customs but for the opposite reason. We act like mourners in order to cause us to feel the loss of the Temple. It’s been so long since we’ve had the Temple, we’ve forgotten what we’re missing. We feel the loss, and then we pray for its return. By awakening the recognition of what we need and want, we create a greater potential for God to bestow it upon us.
If my five-year-old daughter, Esther Menucha, asks me for a piece of licorice on Shabbat, we are both happy after I give it to her. In a simple and pleasurable way we put the dynamics of our relationship into action. She’s dependent on me. I provide for her and want her to be happy. In a similar way we activate our relationship with God by requesting to have the Temple back. Arguably, the most powerful aspect of prayer is that it shows that we look at God as our provider. The name of this month, Av, is translated as “father.” God is our heavenly Father. It’s not a coincidence that the month in which we commemorate as a people our greatest lack, the Temple, is called Father.
One of the well-known prayers in the prayer book is called “Our Father, our King.” Calling God our King expresses the awe we have of Him. Calling God our Father expresses our love of Him. The “father” relationship is also the one that unites us to a greater degree. A nation under a king is only bound together by practical considerations. A family under a father is connected also by their very nature.
Therefore, we need to pull together and unite as a people, especially during this month. There’s nothing more upsetting to a father than seeing his children not getting along. In fact, the Talmud says the reason for the loss of the last Temple was lack of unity.
Now is the time to do one thing to unite with a fellow Jew. Now is the time to pray to our Father in heaven, to return us to the Temple and the spiritual height we were once on.