I didn't learn about the 9th of Av until well into my "new life" as a Torah Jew. I didn't have a coach to get me through a full year, or even a full day. I picked up knowledge piece by piece. Eventually I succeeded in putting the puzzle together, but even then (or now) some pieces are still missing. At least that's how I feel, like walking on thin ice, expecting to make a mistake or show some horrendous ignorance. Converts are taught in a rather systematic way, but BT's, chozrei b'teshuva sometimes find ourselves just jumping into the deep water and learn swimming by immitation, study and gut instinct.
I'm pretty sure that my first actual fasting on Tisha b'Av was in 1967. I had been reminded by someone else who was Orthodox and had also received a flyer inviting me to a "Fast-in for Soviet Jewry," sponsored by SSSJ Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. Sitting on the sidewalk near the USSR Mission to the UN, I met the man who was to be my husband. At that point I really didn't know anything about the 9th of Av except that it was a fast day.
The following summer I worked in a Modern Orthodox Jewish sleepaway camp, HILI-I. There, I learned a bit more about Tisha b'Av, the Nine Days and maybe something about the Three Weeks.
No doubt I failed as a mother, since I couldn't teach what I didn't know. I had to trust the camps, neighbors, etc to supplement what we couldn't give. My husband joined groups that attempted to enter Har Habayit, The Temple Mount on Tisha b'Av, and now he's with the elder grandchildren in the Old City of Jerusalem. I spent this morning in Jerusalem listening to lectures in She'arim with friends and will attend at least one more here in Shiloh.
A twenty-five hour fast isn't easy, especially summertime. I've found that keeping busy helps, and studying is a great way to make the hours go quickly.
Nu, what is this fast day all about? It makes us remember the foreign invasion of Jerusalem and our HolyLand and the subsequent destruction of the Holy Temple. Our sages tell us that the Temple must be rebuilt immediately, but it's rare to find rabbis pushing the issue.
In recent years it has become more acceptable, more common to hear people talk about building the Holy Temple with some urgency, some seriousness.
The Temple Institute (in Hebrew, Machon HaMikdash), founded in 1987, is a non-profit educational and religious organization located in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. The Institute is dedicated to every aspect of the Biblical commandment to build the Holy Temple of G-d on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Our short-term goal is to rekindle the flame of the Holy Temple in the hearts of mankind through education. Our long-term goal is to do all in our limited power to bring about the building of the Holy Temple in our time. Thus, the Institute's efforts include raising public awareness about the Holy Temple, and the central role that it occupies in the spiritual life of mankind. The many areas of activities conducted by the Institute combine research, seminars, publications, and conferences, as well as the production of educational materials.
The major focus of the Institute is its efforts towards the beginning of the actual rebuilding of the Holy Temple. Towards this end, the Institute has begun to restore and construct the sacred vessels for the service of the Holy Temple. These vessels, which G-d commanded Israel to create, can be seen today at our headquarters in Jerusalem. They are made according to the exact specifications of the Bible, and have been constructed from the original source materials, such as gold, copper, silver and wood. These are authentic, accurate vessels, not merely replicas or models. All of these items are fit and ready for use in the service of the Holy Temple. Among the many items featured in the exhibition are musical instruments played by the Levitical choir, the golden crown of the High Priest, and gold and silver vessels used in the incense and sacrificial services. After many years of effort and toil, the Institute has completed the three most important and central vessels of the Divine service: the seven-branched candelabra, or Menorah, made of pure gold; the golden Incense Altar, and the golden Table of the Showbread. (more)
Our return to the Land is incomplete until the Temple is rebuilt. Our continued failure is why we still fast on Tisha b'Av.