During the month of Tammuz which this year is July 7th - August 4th, we are ushering in the summer's main Jewish historical event, the beginning of the cataclysmic loss of our Temple. While Roman documents would never chronicle the unprecedented bloody fight and their own heavy losses, Jewish sources do talk about an amazing heroic stance of a few hundred Temple defenders against thousands of Roman soldiers.
The actual Roman blockade on the Temple mount started 5 months earlier on the 10th day of the month of Tevet. There were five months of starvation and then heavy fighting with the mighty Roman empire and all of its heavy blockade and wall busting equipment. The Romans could not break into the Temple much to the chagrin of the Roman senate. Roman soldiers were brought from all over Europe to help.
Knowing that other oppressed nations around were eying this event carefully, considering it an encouragement for their own revolt, the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem became a "must do at all cost" for Rome.
On the 17 day of Tammuz (commemorated on July 24th this year), after five long months of blockade and fighting, the outer wall of the temple was compromised and thousands of Roman soldiers poured into the inner parts of the Temple attempting to burn it. Little did they know that they would be facing another 22 days of extremely bloody fighting against very determined and brave Jewish defenders inside the Temple plaza before the fight would end. Weeks later the Temple was set ablaze on the 9th day of the month of Av and the few remaining defenders, exhausted by starvation and war, perished.
Over the generations the days between the 17th day of Tammuz and 9th of Av, Tisha B'Av) (Aug. 14th this year) were dedicated to intense mourning. Many Jewish mourning customs are practiced including the avoidance of certain life cycle events such as weddings. The idea was to prepare oneself for the crescendo of the 9th day of Av, the memorial day for the actual destruction of the Temple.
However, over the generations and especially in modern times, the significance of this time period has expanded from a sense of victimhood and despair to ushering in a ray of hope for a gentler, more peaceful world. A modern understanding of the Temple destruction implies the hope of renewal and redemption. The old flames of the Burning Temple forever burned its imprint on our hearts.
Our Temple, the symbol of our highest moral standards, decency and humanity now exist inside of us. This powerful imprint gives us the ability and strength to cling to that ray of hope for a better world no matter how tumultuous our world becomes. In fact the more chaotic and dangerous our world becomes with much evil around the stronger our belief in peaceful times should be. This concept is known in traditional Judaism as " Chevlei Moshiach" the birthing of the messiah (also known as Messianic Age) and that is what helped our ancestors in every generation through some very hard times when their own survival was in question. We should therefore dedicate the 22 days of mourning to spiritual renewal, getting closer to our Judaism, our values, our Creator.