Happy Rosh Chodesh! Today is the first day of the month of Av. The period of mourning intensifies as we enter what is referred to as "the Nine Days" which lead up to Tisha B'av. Additional mourning practices are kept during these days such as restricting the washing of clothing, bathing, swimming, unnecessary travel, consuming meat and wine (besides Shabbat), cutting hair or nails and others.
These restrictions have a twofold purpose. One is to minimize the focus on personal aesthetics and pleasure . The other is to avoid potentially dangerous activities, since this has historically been a time fraught with tragedy for the Jewish people.
These days are something of a collective Shiva when as a people we mourn all we have lost. The events of this time led to the loss of our sovereignty as a people, being driven from our ancestral land, thousands of lives cut short and the destruction of our Temples, the only places where the Shechina -Divine Presence- could be seen and felt by all.
The cause of the destruction of the Second Temple was "Sinat Chinam" which literally translates as "Free Hatred" or hatred without reason. The divisiveness conflict and strife created an environment that was incompatible with the Divine Presence. The Shechina represents the energy which is the unifying life force present in all of creation. In this month we are called upon to connect and unite as a nation. We start by grieving together in the first part of the month and then feeling joy and celebrating together on Tu B'Av in the second half of the month.
Wishing you a Chodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom,