Entering Tisha B'Av, a day of fasting and mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans, Jewish people the world over were greeted with a positive message calling to increase in acts of goodness and kindness.

"The message of Tisha B'Av is not one of hopelessness. Rather, it is a call to action," Rabbi Yosef Wolvovsky, co-director of Chabad: East of the River in Glastonbury, Conn., wrote in the weekly Connecticut Jewish Ledger. "Tisha B'Av is not merely about mourning the past. It is about changing our ways. It is about knowing that our mitzvot can change the world for the better; that our individual actions can have a global effect."

Beginning the night of July 23 this year, and continuing into July 24, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av marks the date the Second Temple fell 1,939 years ago, and the ensuing exile of the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. Many other tragic events occurred through the ages on this date, including the fall of the First Temple and the punishment of wandering the desert for 40 years. Lesser mourning practices, such as not listening to music, begin three weeks before Tisha B'Av.

Because Tisha B'av lasts from sundown to the following day's nightfall, Australian communities, now in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere's winter season, began their fast at 5 p.m. Monday night; the Jewish community in Denmark, on the other hand, waited until 11 p.m. to begin the special day's mourning observances – which include wearing non-leather shoes and refraining from washing one's hands.

"We act like mourners on this day; our synagogues and homes are dimly illuminated; we don't wear shoes or sandals that are made of leather; we don't greet each other, and we learn portions of the Torah about and relevant to the themes of the day. We also avoid everyday work for the first part of the day," said Rabbi Yosef Ginsburg, a prolific Israeli commentator on Halachic issues.

A Cure for the Exile

In an effort to strengthen awareness and commitment to Jewish life, Chabad Houses and synagogues the world over held lectures in the past few weeks. Some, like Chabad of the Five Towns in Cedarhurst, N.Y., hosted a multimedia, interactive tour of the Second Temple. Author Malka Touger traveled to many Jewish centers to highlight parallels in people's relationships with G‑d and their fellow human beings.

Children were also educated about the Temple and encouraged to engage in good deeds to bring about its return. In a presentation at Camp Gan Israel in Parksville, N.Y., staff members acted out the Talmudic tale of two men named Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, whose hatred for each other hastened the Temple's demise. Watchful campers learned how Jerusalemites wrongly treated Kamtza, who then hatched a scheme to convince the Roman emperor of their disloyalty.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, would often remark on the Talmud's conclusion that the Temple was destroyed as a result of "baseless hatred" between Jews. Accordingly, the Rebbe taught, the way to rectify the cause of the exile and bring about the Redemption is by practicing baseless love - to show love to a fellow even when one cannot see any justification for such love. The Rebbe also urged, in a public letter written in 1984, that the days following Tisha B'Av are "an opportune time for good resolutions in all matters of... Torah and mitzvot, which nullify the cause of the exile."