Tisha b'Av, the Ninth Day of the Month of Av, is a major day of fasting in our tradition. Our First and Second Temples were both destroyed on this day, almost five hundred years apart. Many other tragic events in Jewish history are also remembered on this day. Even with the creation of the State of Israel, the holiday has not been rendered obsolete. If anything, the catastrophe of the Holocaust and the lives of all those lost defending Israel give new meaning to this day.
In addition to it being a full fast like on Yom Kippur, there are other rituals that make Tisha b'Av unique. The Book of Lamentations, called Eichah, in Hebrew is chanted to a special, plaintive melody. It is traditional to sit on the floor or low stools for the services. The lights are darkened and candles are used to see. The decorative cover on the reader's desk is removed. Tallit and tefillin are not worn at morning services but rather we wait to put them on at minchah in the afternoon.
It is customary to also chant other poems called kinnot, laments or elegies. This year, we will read from the surprising number of works written by English and American 19th century poets who were moved to write on Jewish themes of this nature, often in collaboration with Jewish writers.
These "crossovers" emphasize an important idea of Tisha b'Av, namely, that while we mourn the inhuman treatment of the Jews throughout history, just as those poets were moved to empathize with Jewish suffering, so too should the holiday move us to consider and alleviate the suffering of others in the world around us.
Therefore, while we do not eat on this day, bring a donation for our Rebbe's Tisch food pantry to help those in need and transform our mourning into hope for a better world.