Our Jewish tradition knows several fast days. Most known is for sure Yom Kippur, but Tisha b’Av, the ninth day in the month of Av, follows directly behind Yom Kippur in the awareness level. The day is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and a day that is destined for tragedies that happened to the Jewish people in its long history. According to the Mishna, the core of the Talmud, five major catastrophes took place throughout the history on that day: On that day 10 of the 12 scouts, sent by Moses, returned with the negative report from the Promised Land, and God decreed that the whole first generation of the liberated Israelites was not allowed to enter the land. Both the first (586 BCE), and the second temple (70 CE) were destroyed on that day. During the Bar-Kochba uprising (132 – 135 CE), many Jews found refuge in the city of Betar, which was taken by the Roman army on Tisha b’Av, killing over 500,000 Jewish civilians. And finally, as a result of the Bar-Kochba uprising the Romans razed Jerusalem to the ground in 135 CE. Over time, Tisha B’Av has come to be a Jewish day of mourning, not only for these events, but also for later tragedies, such as the expulsion from Spain in 1492 (31.7.1492/9 Av 5252). Some communities use Tisha b’Av to mourn the 6,000,000 Jews who perished in the Shoah.
In contrast to other streams, Progressive Judaism never has assigned a central religious role to the ancient Temple. Therefore, mourning the destruction of the Temple may not be particularly meaningful to progressive Jews. Even though, the day should be a day of reflection for all of us. During the Jewish history millions of Jews have been killed only because of being Jewish. On Tisha b’Av our thoughts are with those whose graves are unmarked and those whose names are long forgotten. May they have found refuge and eternal rest in the presents of the Eternal!
Because of Shabbat, fasting starts this year in the evening of 25 July, and ends on Sunday 26 July after sundown. It is a tradition to read Eicha, the book of lamentation on Tisha b’Av. There will be a service of mourning followed by a study session with Rabbi Shaked at Beit Emanuel on 25 July at 18.00.
Tu b’Av, the 15th Day of Av, is both an ancient and modern holiday. Originally a post-biblical day of joy, it served as a matchmaking day in the second Temple period and is described in the Talmud as one of the year’s happiest days: young Jewish women would dress in white and dance in the vineyards, and young bachelors would follow them in search of a bride. Tu b’Av was almost unnoticed in the Jewish calendar for many centuries but it has been rejuvenated in recent decades, especially in Israel. In its modern incarnation it is becoming a Hebrew-Jewish Day of Love, slightly resembling Valentine’s Day. Tu b’Av is celebrated this year on 31 July. May you have a wonderful day, filled with love, friendship, and happiness! – Rabbi Adrian M Schell