It's that time of the year here in the Southern Hemisphere when we start looking for the first signs of spring. Johannesburg winters are relatively mild, but we prefer the "Sunny South Africa" experience.
Sure enough, the first buds and blossoms appeared a few days ago and the temperatures began to rise. "Spring's here", we all thought, "and, thankfully, it wasn't even such a cold winter".
Then, out of the blue, the mercury dropped suddenly and we were hit with a freezing Tisha B'Av (admittedly, making the fast a little easier...).
It was icy and bitter and thoughts of Spring were placed on hold- not dissolved, just postponed. In a country that's warm for some 300 days a year we know that "when the mercury goes down, it must come up".
Quite apt for this time of the year.
Tisha B'Av marks the lowest point on the Jewish calendar, the day when we commemorate all the terrible things that have affected our nation over time. It's the Jewish national "down in the dumps" day.
But we don't get stuck there. Just a few days after Tisha B'Av, we celebrate Tu B'Av, a day the Talmud designates as one of the two happiest days on the Jewish calendar.
This is the "Yeridah tzorech aliyah" principle, or "whatever goes down must come up". Judaism believes that every fall prepares us for a greater rise. Every failure is the fertilizing of new achievement; every difficult time, the making of a new miracle.
It's more poignant this year, with Israel fighting for its life during this period of national mourning. Some people may have read that as bad news (G-d forbid) - "Tisha B'Av" 2006. Please G-d, we hope it's really just a short-term downer that will be the catalyst for a surge of good, peace and security in our Holy Land and its surrounds.