Three Weeks and Nine Days
The Fast of Tisha B'Av is the climax of a long period of mourning for the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and the resulting exile of the Jewish People.
It is preceded by three weeks of mourning, which begin with the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz and which reach a greater intensity in the last nine days of that period. The connection between the reasons for both of these fast days contains an important message.
Of the five tragedies which took place on the 17th of Tammuz throughout history it is the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem which stands out, just as the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash is foremost amongst the five tragedies that occurred on the Ninth of Av. Jerusalem is a holy city, but the Beit Hamikdash has an even higher level of sanctity. The decline of holiness in our nation was a progressive one and so the tragic consequences also came in stages – first the city and then the Sanctuary.
As we mourn we must commit ourselves to halt the decline of holiness in our own time and begin the upward progress which will secure Israel forever.