We are in the three weeks of mourning before Tisha B'av—a holy day commemorating a great deal of suffering for our people.

The destruction of both temples and the expulsion of the Jewish people from Spain all occurred on Tisha B’Av. Thus, the three weeks before Tisha B’Av have been designated as a time of semi-mourning. No weddings take place and those who are religious do not engage in listening to music, attending festivities, or going to the beach.

Tisha B’Av is, depending upon one’s perspective, a time of deep reflection prior to the time of deep reflection during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. It is, as it were, a “dress rehearsal” so that we might spend this time looking at our goals and objectives for the coming year, and deciding upon courses of action.

In Jewish thinking, repentance is a literal changing of one’s mind and a turning from one direction to another. It is not specifically a feeling or insight that takes place without action; though, it is often insight that may lead us to take an action that will have life-changing repercussions.

I would like to offer a way to deal with the Three Weeks in a practical and spiritual manner so that we might find ourselves with renewed energy, motivation, resolve and focus at the start of the academic year, and a "head start" for Rosh HaShanah.

Four Elements of Life

Recognize that your life is made up of four elements: spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical. Neglecting of any of these elements will lead to imbalance. I suggest that you make a list with headings for each of these four categories.Under each heading, write down three goals you have for these three weeks. State the goals positively. For example, don't write, "I want to lose weight and stop eating three chocolate ice cream bars a day." Notice, if you say this, that you feel your energy drain. Instead say, "I choose to eat healthy foods, and focus on protein, vegetables, and drinking lots of water."

Make your goals realistic. For example, I am practicing Hebrew now. However, if I say, "I will speak only Hebrew and read only Hebrew," I set myself up for failure. Instead, one of my goals is, "I will practice Hebrew for forty-five minutes a day by reading, speaking, writing, and listening." Then if I do more, that is a bonus. But, devoting forty-five minutes a day is a realistic and achievable goal.

Focus on what you can do to change the world. We all must know by now that change begins within ourselves. It is foolish to try to change others, change governments, or even change policies without changing ourselves. We must be the change we wish to see. Yeshua said, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). Therefore, if I wish to see outward change, I must practice inward change.

Devote thirty to forty-five minutes each day on each of these four elements. I venture to say that at the end of the three weeks, you will find yourself calmer, happier, and with renewed focus. You will hear more clearly what God is saying to you, and feel more confident and joyful. May God give you a meaningful and inspiring Tisha B'Av!