This Day In Jewish History

WHAT IS TISHA B’AV?

My dear readers, with all my excitement about the Son of Man and the importance of this topic, with all my desire to show you the amazing parallels between the book of Enoch and the Gospels, I do need to pause and write about this special day in the Jewish calendar that we just observed  —Tisha B’Av.

In Judaism, Tisha B’Av (Hebrew: תשעה באב ), “the Ninth of Av,” is an annual fast day. It is the ninth day (Tisha) of the month of Av – hence the name. Tisha B’Av is never observed on Shabbat, so if the 9th of Av falls on a Saturday, as it does this year, the fast is postponed until the 10th of Av. Therefore, this year the fast of Tish’a B’Av began at sundown on Saturday 21 July 2018 (Motzey Shabbat) and ended  the next day, Sunday 22 July 2018, at nightfall.

Originally, the fast of Tisha B’Av commemorated the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem: both the First Temple and the Second Temple in Jerusalem were destroyed on the same date in Hebrew calendar date (about 500 years apart). The First Temple, built by King Solomon, was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE. Even though we read in 2 Kings 25:8 that the destruction of the First Temple began on the 7th of Av, according to the Talmud the actual destruction of the Temple began on the ninth of Av, and the Temple continued to burn throughout the Tenth of Av. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

However, over time Tisha B’Av has become a Jewish day of mourning, not only for these events, but also for later calamities which occurred on this day (or around this day). Here are just some of them[1]:

The Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans was crushed and ended in defeat on August 4, 135 CE. On the same date but one year later, the Romans ploughed the site of the Temple in Jerusalem and the surrounding area.

The First Crusader officially commenced on August 15, 1096 (Av 24, 4856), killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland.

The Jews were expelled from England on July 18, 1290 (Av 9, 5050).

The Jews were expelled from France on July 22, 1306 (Av 10, 5066).

The Jews were expelled from Spain on July 31, 1492 (Av 7, 5252).

Germany entered World War I on August 1–2, 1914 (Av 9–10, 5674), which caused massive upheaval in European Jewry and whose aftermath led to the Holocaust.

On August 2, 1941 (Av 9, 5701), SS commander Heinrich Himmler formally received approval from the Nazi Party for the ” The Final Solution”. As a result, the Holocaust began, during which almost one third of the world’s Jewish population perished.

On July 23, 1942 (Av 9, 5702), the mass deportation of Jews from the  Warsaw Ghetto,  en route to  Treblinka,

The bombing  of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killed 85 and injuring 300 on 18 July 1994 (10 Av, 5754).

The Israel disengagement from Gaza   began in the Gaza strip, expelling 8000 Jews who lived in Gush Katif; 15 August 2005; 10 Av, 5765.

I would like to add just a few personal words regarding the last tragedy in this list. I clearly remember my feeling of disbelief when I learned, for the first time, that the disengagement was scheduled for that date. I thought, “How could any Jewish leader, plan anything on this date? Doesn’t he know the history?” But the hand of God orchestrates history – and Jewish history in particular – and even though not everyone in Israel saw it as a calamity, by “attaching” this event to this date, God definitely pronounced His judgment even then. I am writing these lines after the weekend of almost 200 Palestinian rockets launched from Gaza Strip into our South—writing and wondering: Why didn’t our leadership heed the warning of God in 2005?

 

THE DANGER OF MALIGNING THE LAND

In Numbers 13-14 we read about the Twelve Spies sent by Moses to scout out the land of Canaan.  When they returned from their mission, only two of them, Joshua and  Caleb,  brought a positive report, while the others discouraged the people. Because of their discouraging report, the people of Israel cried and panicked and refused to go into the Land. God was angry with the people; and even though He forgave them after Moses’ intercession, He punished them nevertheless:  “Then the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I liveall these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness… and have not heeded My voice,  they certainly shall not see the land.”[2]

That is what we find in the Torah. However, Jewish tradition adds some details. When we read: “So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night,”[3] Talmud elaborates: “That night was the night of the Ninth of Av. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to them: you wept needlessly that night, and I will therefore establish for you a true tragedy over which there will be weeping in future generations.”[4]

It is a very sober reminder for all of us, isn’t it? (and not only for those living in Israel). Haven’t you heard people say: I am a good person, I don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery. Think of it: according to Jewish tradition, the spies were the best of the people—they certainly didn’t kill, didn’t steal and didn’t commit adultery, and yet, their sin was such a terrible thing in God’s eyes!

 

THE FAST OF THE FIFTH MONTH

As you understand by now, Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. And yet,  there is a joy of anticipation attached even to this sad day. Do you remember that a few weeks ago I mentioned something that might be designated as “a kosher pig” – a profound Jewish belief that when the Messiah comes, everything will be repaired and all the bad things will be reversed. This is a rabbinic tradition, but of course it is based on Scripture. Look at this verse from Zechariah:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:

‘The fast of the fourth month,
The fast of the fifth,
The fast of the seventh,
And the fast of the tenth,
Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts
For the house of Judah.”[5]

Zechariah talks about the fast of Tisha B’Av (“the fast of the fifth month”) eventually being transformed into a day of joy with the coming of Messiah. Aren’t we all anticipating this joy?

 

[1] You can find the lists of the tragedies happened to the Jews on Tisha B’Av, on many different sites. This particular  list is taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tisha_B%27Av

 

[2] Num. 14:20-23

[3] Num 14:1

[4] Taanit, 29a

[5] Zech. 8:19

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Dot Healy

    Julia, I love the insights you bring into subjects that we think we understand, …but there is always more, What particularly struck me in this post was the Jewish link of Tisha B’av with fear of the Israelites to enter the Promised Land. Hebrews 4 speaks into this, saying “Let us be diligent therefore to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobience” (v.11). Have we, as ‘good’ Christians, truly entered into His rest, or do we sit complacenty on the other side of the Jordan, so to speak, not truly having the faith to cross over – still consumed by worries, fears and unbelief, etc? If so, What are the consequences? This is a big subject, but one not to be overlooked.

  2. John Driscoll

    Thank you for your insights to the history of Tisha B’Av. I have been studying the Bible for 38 years and have recently be drawn to the study of God’s names in the Hebrew seeking to discover for myself the depths of who God is for me.