TISH B’AV

About these three weeks; Sundown of July 20 -> Sundown August 10, 2014:

The “Three Weeks” between the 17th of Tammuz and the Tisha B’Av have historically been days of misfortune and calamity for the Jewish people. During this time, both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, amongst other terrible tragedies.

These days are referred to as the period “within the straits” (bein hametzarim), in accordance with the verse: “all her oppressors have overtaken her within the straits” (Lamentations 1:3).

On Shabbat during the Three Weeks, the Haftorahs are taken from chapters in Isaiah and Jeremiah dealing with the Temple’s destruction and the exile of the Jewish people.

During this time, various aspects of mourning are observed by the entire nation. We minimize joy and celebration. And, since the attribute of Divine judgement (“din”) is acutely felt, we avoid potentially dangerous or risky endeavors.

The destructions

The fast commemorates two of the saddest events in Jewish history—the destruction of the First Temple (originally built by King Solomon), and the destruction of the Second Temple. Those two events occurred about 656 years apart, but both in the same month, Av, and, as tradition has it, both on the ninth day.

In connection with the fall of Jerusalem three other fast-days were established at the same time as the Ninth Day of Av: these were the Tenth of Tevet, when the siege began; the Seventeenth of Tammuz, when the first breach was made in the wall; and the Third of Tishrei, known as the Fast of Gedaliah, the day when Gedaliah was assassinated (II Kings 25:25; Jeremiah 41:2). From Zechariah 7:5, 8:19 it appears that after the building of the Second Temple the custom of keeping these fast-days was temporarily discontinued. Since the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Second Temple by the Romans, the four fast-days have again been observed.

After the Exodus

On this day in the year 1312 BCE, the generation of Jews who came out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership 16 months earlier were condemned to die in the wilderness (midbar) and the entry into the Land of Israel was delayed for 40 years until the old generation died out.

The five calamities

According to the Mishnah (Taanit, 4:6), five specific events occurred on the ninth of Av that warrant fasting:

On this day, the Twelve spies sent by Moses to observe the land of Canaan returned from their mission. Two of the spies (Joshua and Caleb) brought a positive report, but 10 of the spies brought an “evil report” about the land that caused the Children of Israel to cry, panic and despair of ever entering the “Promised land”. For this, they were punished by God that they would not enter, and that for all generations the day would become one of crying and misfortune for the descendants of the Children of Israel, the Jewish people. (See Numbers ch 13–14)

Solomon’s Temple (the First Temple) and the Kingdom of Judah were destroyed by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE and the Judeans were sent into the Babylonian exile.

The Second Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE scattering the people of Judea and commencing a two thousand year Jewish exile.

The Bar Kokhba’s revolt against Rome failed, and Bar Kokhba was killed, as was Rabbi Akiva and many other important sages of the Mishnah, and Betar was destroyed.

Following the Siege of Jerusalem, the subsequent razing of Jerusalem occurred one year later.

According to the Talmud (Tractate Taanit), the destruction of the Second Temple began on that date and was finally consumed by the flames on the next day—the Tenth of Av.

Later calamities on 9 Av

A large number of calamities are alleged to have occurred on the ninth of Av:

The burning of the Talmud in 1242

In 1290, the signature of the edict by King Edward I expelling the Jews from England

On July 22, 1306, the tenth of Av, the Jews of France were arrested and ordered to leave the country. Approximately 100,000 were forced to wander in search of new homes, and many perished along the way.

The Alhambra decree expelling the Jews from Spain, came into effect at midnight on 1492-07-31, which was on the evening of the 8th of Av, less than 24 hours before Tisha B’av began.

In the First World War, Germany declared war on Russia on 1914-08-01, Tisha B’av.

On the tenth of Av in 1929, Arab hatred of Zionism once again boiled over into full-scale riots in Jerusalem at the Western Wall.

Holocaust (Shoah)

Most Haredi and centrist Orthodox Jews also see Tisha B’Av as a remembrance day for the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Modern Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews remember these on a special day instituted by the government of Israel, called Yom HaShoah. Haredi rabbinical leaders view the institution of a new permanent day of mourning or celebration in our times as anti-traditional, which is why Haredi Jews do not observe Yom Hazikaron either. There are also many who see Tisha B’Av as a remembrance day for the Holocaust as well as participate in its remembrance on Yom HaShoah.

More recent:

The first killings at Treblinka took place in 1942

The AMIA Bombing (Asociación Mutua Israelita Argentina) by terrorists on July 18, 1994 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 86 and wounded more than 120.

The purpose of the day is not to institute annual commemorations of historical disasters. Rather, they are commemorated on Tisha B’Av. Examples are the destruction of many Jewish communities in the Rhineland during the Crusades. The liturgy often makes mention of specific instances (see below).

In 2005, on the tenth of Av, the government of Israel began the Gaza Disengagement, where 9,000 Jewish residents were evicted from their homes