Sunset tonight we will begin to commemorate the fast of Tisha b'Av, the climax of the Three Weeks when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple - not just once, but twice - which took place on the 9th of Av as well as many other disasters for the Jewish nation including the Spanish Inquisition, the outbreak of WWI, Krystalnacht, etc.
It all began in the year 1312 B.C.E. when the Spies returned to Moses and the Children of Israel to bring their report of what the Land of Israel was like. They all agreed it was a very good land, but 10 out of the 12 spies said the inhabitants of the land were "like giants" and that they would swallow us Jews up and that there was no possible way we could take the land.
Only two of the Spies - Joshua and Caleb - said to the Israelites that the Lord would fight on our behalf and that we shouldn't worry about the "giants" because the land was to be given to us by the Lord, not by our own ability to fight battles.
Of course the Israelites believed the 10 negative Spies and that is why we had to wander a total of 40 years in the desert instead of only a few weeks - as punishment for disbelieving the Lord our G_d who brought us out of the land of Egypt, fed us in the desert with Manna, and gave us the Torah at Mt. Sinai. If He could do all that, a few "giants" in the land should be nothing for Him. And yet we still didn't trust Him.
Our Sages say that the sin of believing the negative report of the Spies is the basis for all of the rest of the disasters that befell the Children of Israel throughout history.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Everybody is talking, no one is listening. We still believe the negative report of the Spies and we still don't trust the Lord our G_d Who brought us back to this land after 2,000 years of exile.
So tonight here in Jerusalem will begin a time of mourning, fasting, the reading of the book of "Lamentations" written by the Prophet Jeremiah. We will assemble, sit on the ground, weep, tear our clothes, and call out for redemption.
The Lubavicher Rebbe said: "Our sages tell us that the Holy Temple was destroyed and we were exiled from our land because there was "baseless hatred" amongst us. Accordingly, the way to bring the Redemption is through baseless love -- to love a fellow even though one sees no cause whatsoever for such love."
Secular and Observant, Haredi and Religious Zionist, black hat and white kippah, Litvaks and Chassidim, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, left and right-wing - is there any possible way, for once in our lives, that we can transcend what divides us and remember who we are and why we are here?