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"Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire… Daughter Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field, like a city under siege."

This is the terrifying message of the prophet Isaiah in this week's haftarah. It is the final haftarah of warning, threatening us that the Temple is about to be destroyed.

On Saturday night, it will be, at least in a liturgical sense. This week is Tisha B’Av, the great fast commemorating the destruction of the Temples and all calamities that have befallen the Jews.

This date has always made Progressive Jews uncomfortable. Some don't mark it at all. It is difficult to wallow in grief for a day.

But grieving what's gone can teach us important lessons. It can put us in touch with our most challenging emotions, like guilt, misery and despair.

As Reform Jews, we have no desire to return to the Temple or its sacrifices. We are the heirs to the rabbinic revolution, which rebuilt our entire religion after Jerusalem was destroyed. Because of the early rabbis, we became a Diaspora people; replaced animal slaughter with prayer; and substituted hereditary priests for a system where all Jews could be equals.

That is really why we must mark Tisha B’Av. It tells us where we came from. It shows us how we are able to move on from disaster and carry on when all seems lost.

This season teaches us to despair, but it also reminds us to hope. It shows us that we have been destroyed many times before, and we have always managed to rebuild. However dire things might appear, we have the capacity and creativity to pick ourselves up once more.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Lev