I was sixteen years old when I became enchanted with Israel as I trekked throughout the Holy Land with a group of sunburned teenagers on a summer youth group trip. I called home to my mother, proclaiming that I wanted to live in Israel and marry a handsome Israeli soldier. The trip wasn't religiously oriented and the mission was more to expose young American Jews to the land than to expose us to Judaism. But when a land and a people are so inherently connected, that sole mission was impossible to achieve. As we went to the holy sites I thought to myself how I didn't really know what to do there, but when I came upon the Western Wall, my body swayed, my eyes welled with tears, and my lips couldn't stop themselves from whispering petitions. I thought I didn't know what to do, but I did.

The air continued to hang heavyBefore our journey ended, I remember a certain night that stood out from all the others. It was a dark night and the air continued to hang heavy from the boiling August sun. Our counselors explained to us that the night was Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, and that it was a tragic day in Jewish history. They didn't go into too many details, but we were told that it was the night of the destruction of the First and Second Temples. We then did a reenactment of an escape from Roman soldiers. At the end we were also told that it was a fast day for the Jewish people.

I fasted through the night and the next day, my first time fasting for Tisha B'Av. At the time I didn't fast for the destruction of the Temples. This had little or no significance to me and was something too removed for me to comprehend. I fasted because I found out that it was a fast day for the Jewish people, and as a Jew, I wanted to share in this experience with my people.

Two years later I went to synagogue on the night of Tisha B'Av. I found myself sitting on the floor in cloth shoes like a mourner. In a weeping voice, the Rabbi led the congregation in the reading of the book of Lamentations and for the first time in my life I had a sensation of what it meant to mourn and feel a connection to the loss of the Holy Temple.

There is a famous story told about Napoleon Bonaparte. He was walking in the streets of Paris when he heard wailings and the sounds of people lamenting, coming from a synagogue. He turned to the person he was with and asked, "Why are they crying?"

The other answered, "They're mourning over the destruction of their Temple."

"When was it destroyed?"

"Almost two thousand years ago."

Napoleon then declared, "A nation still mourning after so long will be eternal. They will return to their land and rebuild their Temple."

Why would Napoleon make such an assertion? Maybe because Napoleon understood that people don't mourn thousands of years over broken bricks and stones. Tisha B'Av isn't about the destruction of a building. Tisha B'Av is about the exile of a people from their homeland, an estrangement of a nation from G‑d, and a separation of the spiritual from the physical. Tisha B'Av is about national tragedy and about personal suffering. Each one of us has individual struggles and all of us, in one form or another await, redemption from them, and the day when Tisha B'Av will no longer be a day of mourning, but a day of celebration.

Why do the Jewish people continue to mourn and weep?But why do the Jewish people continue to mourn and weep year after year? Isn't there such a thing as let go and live? Be happy with the moment and forget the past?

The Torah describes how grief-stricken Jacob was when informed that his son, Joseph, was attacked and killed by an animal. For twenty-two years, Jacob was inconsolable, unable to get over the death of his beloved Joseph. Rashi – a post-Talmudic commentator - explains that Jacob's mourning was beyond the mourning of a parent for their child. This is because Joseph was really still alive. Jacob's wounds could not heal because they weren't closed, Joseph was still alive and Jacob continued to bleed.

Mourning a death is very different than mourning something or someone that is missing. Even if a person is missing and presumed dead, the search for that person, or even the person's body, is never forgotten. We need proof. We need closure. For until there is closure, we cannot begin to move on. Yet this is what Tisha B'av is showing us. We are not mourning a death, we are mourning what is missing. The Temples were destroyed, but not forever, for the Third Temple will be rebuilt. But until it is, Tisha B'av is that reminder of what we have temporarily lost.

This is why in the Talmud (Shabbat 31), there is a discussion about which questions are asked by the Heavenly Court for admittance into Heaven after a person dies. One of the questions that the Talmud states is, "Did you expect (wait for) the Redemption?" The author of the Melech b'Piv - a Torah commentary - notes that the word used by the Sages is "to expect" (tzepita) or "wait for." It doesn't use "hope for" or "want," but a word which describes a looking out for - with certainty.

This is like the family with a missing child. Years may have gone by, but that family waits every single day for a phone call that their child has been found. Every day they grieve that the child is missing, yet simultaneously, every day they pray and hope. This is the crying and mourning we do on Tisha B'av. For as hard as it is to live without our Temple and to be in exile, we wait every single day for it to be returned to us and pray that immediately we will be redeemed.