Remembering the Destruction of Zion
By John J. Parsons
Hebrew for Christians Ministries
- “He who does not mourn over the Destruction of Zion
will not live to see her joy."
Tish’ah B'Av (the Ninth of Av) is a tzom (fast) day of mourning to remember the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the centuries, some of which coincidentally(?) have occurred on the Ninth day of the month of Av. In particular, the following tragedies are all said to have occurred on this day:
1. The LORD decreed that the original generation rescued from Egypt would die out in the desert and be deprived from entering the Promised Land because of the sin of the Spies (Num. 13)
2. The destruction of the First Temple (Babylonians, 586 B.C.E.)
3. The destruction of the Second Temple (Romans, 70 C.E.)
4. The expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290
5. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492
Tish’ah B'Av is the low point of a three week period of mourning, starting with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz (undertaken to recall the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians before the First Temple was destroyed). During this three week period, weddings and parties are forbidden. It is a time for solemn reflection and mourning for Israel.
Tishah B'Av resembles a shivah (mourning for the dead). On this fast day, you cannot bathe, eat, drink, laugh, or adorn yourself. As a mourner you enter the synagogue and take off your shoes; you sit on low stools or on the floor. No greetings are exchanged. The parochet (the curtain over the Ark) is usually removed before the fast and a drape of black cloth is substituted for it. Services at the synagogue include the reciting of Lamentations and singing mournful dirges.
“On the Ninth of Av it was decreed on our fathers that they would not enter the Promised Land [Numbers 14], the Temple was destroyed [both] the first time and the second time, Beitar (the stronghold of the Bar Kochba rebellion) was captured, and the city (of Jerusalem) was plowed under.” (Talmud Taanit 26b)
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, chaverim....(Psalm 122:6)
The three week period from Tammuz 17 to the Tishah B’Av is called bein ha-Metzarim - “between the straights” (based on Lamentations 1:3), a period of time during which many calamities befell the Jewish people. Since both Temples were destroyed during this period (i.e., between the 4th and 5th months), the chaza’l (sages) established this extended period as a time of mourning for the Jewish people.
Typically marriages are not held during this period, and many Jews deliberately refrain from ostensibly pleasurable activities, such as listening to music, dancing, taking vacations, and sometimes even shaving! In fact, most Orthodox Jews will refrain from any activity that might require the recitation of the Shehecheyanu blessing.
In short, the Three Weeks of Sorrow is a time for reflection and mourning over the destruction of the Temple and constitutes a time of corporate reflection intended to lead Israel to teshuvah.
Fasts Surrounding the destruction of the temple:
Event: Jerusalem Beseiged
10th of Tevet (Asarah B’Tevet)
Event: Walls Breached
Fast: 17th of Tammuz (Fast of Tammuz)
Event: Temple Destroyed
Fast: 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av)
Event: Self-imposed Exile
Fast: 3rd of Tishri (Tzom Gedaliah)\
Related story: Tishah B’Av: The Day of Remembrance and Mourning
Christianity's Jewish Roots on CBN.com
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© John J. Parsons, Hebrew for Christians Ministries, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Used with permission.
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