Today was Tisha B’Av, a day that for Jews commemorates many horrific things that happened to our people. Things that are beyond my ability to conceive. Pogroms. Senseless murder. Expulsions from our homes, our countries. And most recently, death camps. And on this date over two millennia ago, the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, some 600 years apart.

Three weeks ago, I wrote that I didn’t fast on the day Jews commemorate the Romans breaching the walls of Jerusalem. Today, when Jews fasted to mark the Temple’s destruction, I did fast and mourn.

Why? Because sacred spaces matter, and their loss is indeed a tragedy.

The closest I can come to imagining the destruction of the Temple is my memory of 9-11, watching on television as the twin towers burned and fell. Watching in horror as bodies spiraled through the sky, as dust plumes filled the caverns between buildings, as crowds of people grey with ash stumbled along the streets.

Today’s tragedy and trauma is different. The tragedy of a world-wide pandemic that has sickened millions and killed hundreds of thousands is made up of small shards, pieces that came together incrementally over the months, changing our world until we found ourselves living in a place and time that we barely recognize.

But that’s not all. During the pandemic we have seen uprisings in the streets, protesting the unwarranted killing of Black men and women by those who swore to protect and serve. And we have seen a terrible upsurge in anti-Jewish hate speech, spray painted onto our buildings and splattered across the pages of social media. It’s being quite a year.

Despite the many centuries between the Temple’s destruction and the pandemic of today, the two tragedies have an important attribute in common: Both fundamentally changed the way Jews behave.

When the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, it seemed impossible for Judaism to continue. Yet here we are, because a group of visionaries reimagined how to be Jewish. Sacrifice would no longer be the central element of the religion, and priests would no longer be in charge. Instead, tefillah, prayer, gemilut chasadim, acts of loving kindness, and tzedakah, righteous acts, would become the way we lived Judaism. We learned to practice Judaism in new ways in our synagogues and homes.

Today when I fasted, I mourned more than that ancient building. I mourned the synagogue I serve, as well as all that have helped feed my soul over the years. Their doors are locked. The sanctuaries are dark and the Torah scrolls sit untouched.

Because of Covid, Judaism is changing once again. We can’t meet in our sacred spaces. We can’t sing together. We can’t even smile at each other in person, much less hug. Instead we each sit alone in our homes before computer screens, peering at the tiny moving pictures of our co-congregants and friends.

We are each on our own, but we are also in this together. And that’s the beauty of being Jewish today. We can try new things. If they work, terrific. If they fall flat, then we can try something else.

“We have to translate our passion,” President Obama said today, when eulogizing Rep. John Lewis. He was talking about translating it into the vote.

I’m talking about translating our passion into a renewed religious life. Judaism has lived through worse tragedies than today’s, and it will live through this one.

As evening falls and the sky darkens, I realize that Tisha B’Av is over. The day’s name is the date; the 9th day of the month of Av. But tonight, the 10thday begins. Time to rise up from our sorrow and loss, and begin anew.

Rubble from the 9-11 attack on the twin towers in New York.