Tisha B'Av, the fast day commemorating the destructions of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem 2,500 and 2,000 years ago, respectively, doesn't rank up there with most celebrated Jewish holidays.
But Rabbi Eli Stern of the Westwood Kehilla believes more attention to the holiday can help bring about a better world.
"Even if one may not be able to relate to what it means to have the Temple destroyed, perhaps one can relate to what the rectification process is for bringing about healing and the final redemption," says Stern, associate rabbi for outreach at the Westwood Kehilla, a small Orthodox congregation.
That healing process primarily focuses on improving the way people treat each other, since tradition holds that the Temple was destroyed because of the baseless hatred that was rampant among the Israelites.
Westwood Kehilla is sponsoring a full day and evening of programming focusing on topics of interpersonal relationships, as well as on the traditional texts of Tisha B'Av, which recount the destruction and the aftermath.
This year's program will also focus on the situation in Israel.
Stern says the suffering in Israel and the extent of the turmoil could be God's sending a reminder to the Jewish people that the need for working toward redemption is stronger now than ever.
"It is in our power to bring about the redemption and to bring about a Jewish people and a whole world that lives in peace and security and in harmony with God and with each other," Stern says. "Tisha B'Av is the most powerful day on the calendar to effectuate that transformation," he says.
The program, Saturday evening, July 28, and Sunday, July 29, will include readings from the Lamentations and Kinot, the traditional elegies read on Tisha B'Av, as well as classes taught by Stern and Rabbi Joel Zeff, former rabbi of the Kehilla, who now teaches in Jerusalem.
For a full schedule of the day, call the Westwood Kehilla at (310) 441-5289 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org