Tisha B'Av

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Tisha B'Av
Francesco Hayez 017.jpg
Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, by Francesco Hayez
Official name Hebrew: תשעה באב
English: Ninth of Av
Observed by Jews in Judaism
Type Jewish
Significance Mourning the destruction of the ancient Temples and Jerusalem, and other major calamities which have befallen the Jewish people.
Observances Fasting, mourning, prayer
Date 9th day of Av (if Shabbat, then the 10th of Av)
2013 date Sunset, July 15–nightfall, July 16
2014 date Sunset, August 4–nightfall, August 5
2015 date Sunset, July 25–nightfall, July 26
2016 date Sunset, August 13–nightfall, August 14
Frequency annual
Related to The fasts of Gedalia, the Tenth of Tevet and the Seventeenth of Tammuz, the Three Weeks & the Nine Days

About this sound Tisha B'Av  (lit. "the ninth of Av") (Hebrew: תשעה באב‎ or ט׳ באב), is an annual fast day in Judaism which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the Land of Israel. The day also commemorates other tragedies which occurred on the same day, including the Roman massacre of over 100,000 Jews at Betar in 132 CE. Instituted by the rabbis of 2nd-century Palestine, Tisha B'Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and a day which is destined for tragedy.[1][2]

Tisha B'Av falls in July or August in the Western calendar.

In addition to the basic five prohibitions, all pleasurable activity is forbidden. The Book of Lamentations which mourns the destruction of Jerusalem is read in the synagogue, followed by the kinnot, a series of liturgical dirges which lament the loss of the Temple and Jerusalem. As the day has become associated with remembrance of other major calamities which have befallen the Jewish people, some kinnot recall events such as the murder of the Ten Martyrs, the decimation of numerous medieval Jewish communities during the Crusades and the destruction of European Jewry in the Holocaust.

History[edit]

Biblical origins according to Judaism[edit]

Main article: The Twelve Spies

According to Rabbinic tradition (as seen in the Mishnah Taanit 4:6), the sin of the Twelve Spies produced the annual fast day of Tisha B'Av. When the Israelites accepted the false report, they wept over the false belief that God was setting them up for defeat. The night that the people cried was the ninth of Av, which became a day of weeping and misfortune for all time.[3]

Destruction of the Temple[edit]

Excavated stones from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (Jerusalem), knocked onto the street below by Roman battering rams in 70 CE

The fast commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples,[4] which both occurred on Av 9, about 655 years apart.[5]

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.

The three weeks leading up to Tisha B'Av are known as The Three Weeks, while the days leading up to Tisha B'Av are known as The Nine Days.

Five calamities[edit]

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

  1. The twelve spies sent by Moses to observe the land of Canaan returned from their mission. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, brought a positive report, while the others spoke disparagingly about the land. The majority report caused the Children of Israel to cry, panic and despair of ever entering the "Promised Land". For this, they were punished by God that their generation would not enter the land. Because of the Israelites' lack of faith, God decreed that for all generations this date would become one of crying and misfortune for their descendants. (See Numbers 13; Numbers 14).
  2. The First Temple built by King Solomon and the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BCE (Anno Mundi [AM] 3175) after a two-year siege and the Judaeans were sent into the Babylonian exile. According to the Talmud in tractate Ta'anit, the destruction of the First Temple began on the Ninth of Av and the Temple continued to burn throughout the Tenth of Av.
  3. The Second Temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah was destroyed by the Romans in August 70 CE (AM 3830), scattering the people of Judea and commencing the Jewish exile from the Holy Land.
  4. The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba's revolt and destroyed the city of Betar, killing over 100,000 Jews, on July 8, 132 CE (Av 9, AM 3892).[6]
  5. Following the Bar Kokhba revolt, Roman commander Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Temple and the surrounding area, in 133 CE.[7]

Note: Due to a two-year difference within the Hebrew calendar, the years in which the First and Second Temple were destroyed have been disputed. Though it has been accepted by most historians to refer to the most modern interpretation of the Calendar (which corresponds to the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.)

Other calamities[edit]

Over time, Tisha B'Av has come to be a Jewish day of mourning, not only for these events, but also for later tragedies. Regardless of the exact dates of these events, for many Jews, Tisha B'Av is the designated day of mourning for them, and these themes are reflected in liturgy composed for this day (see below).

Other calamities associated with Tisha B'Av:

  • The episode of the Golden calf (17th of Tammuz) in which the Hebrews, after their exodus from Egypt, reintroduced idolatry as a form of spirituality.[8][9]
  • The First Crusade officially commenced on August 15, 1096 (Av 24, AM 4856), killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland. A grand total of 1.2 million Jews were killed by this crusade that started on the 9th of Av.[6][10]
  • The Jews were expelled from England on July 18, 1290 (Av 9, AM 5050).[6]
  • The Jews were expelled from France on July 22, 1306 (Av 10, AM 5066).
  • The Jews were expelled from Spain on July 31, 1492 (Av 7, AM 5252).[7]
  • Germany entered World War I on August 1–2, 1914 (Av 9-10, AM 5674), which caused massive upheaval in European Jewry and whose aftermath led to the Holocaust.[6]
  • On August 2, 1941 (Av 9, AM 5701), SS commander Heinrich Himmler formally received approval from the Nazi Party for "The Final Solution". Almost one third of world's Jewish population were captured and killed at that time.
  • On July 23, 1942 (Av 9, AM 5702), began the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.
  • Most religious communities use Tisha B'Av to mourn the 6,000,000 Jews who perished in the Holocaust, including special kinnot composed for this purpose (see the main kinnot article) (in addition to, or instead of, the secular Holocaust Memorial Days.)

On the 10th of Av the following events took place:

  • AMIA bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 and injuring 300 on 18 July 1994; 10 Av, AM 5754.
  • Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, also known as the "Disengagement plan", "Gaza expulsion plan", or Hitnatkut, began 10 Av, AM 5765; 15 August 2005.

Laws and customs[edit]

Tisha B'Av falls in July or August in the Western calendar. When Tisha B'Av falls on the Shabbat (Saturday) observance of Tisha B'Av takes place on Sunday. No outward signs of mourning intrude upon the normal Sabbath, although normal Sabbath eating and drinking end at sunset, rather than nightfall. The fast lasts about 25 hours, beginning at sunset on the preceding evening lasting until nightfall the next day. In addition to fasting, other pleasurable activities are also forbidden.

Main prohibitions[edit]

Tisha B'Av bears a similar stringent nature to that of Yom Kippur. In addition to the length of the fast which lasts about 25 hours, beginning at sunset on the eve of Tisha B'Av and ends at nightfall the following day, Tisha B'Av also shares the following five prohibitions:[11][12]

  1. No eating or drinking;
  2. No washing or bathing;
  3. No application of creams or oils;
  4. No wearing of (leather) shoes;
  5. No marital relations.

These restrictions are waived in the case of health issues. For example, those who are seriously ill may eat and drink. On other fast days almost any medical condition may justify breaking the fast; in practice, since many cases differ, consultation with a rabbi is often necessary. Ritual washing up to the knuckles is permitted. Washing to cleanse dirt or mud from one's body is also permitted.

Additional customs[edit]

Reading kinnot at the Western Wall

Torah study is forbidden on Tisha B'av (as it is considered a spiritually enjoyable activity), except for the study of distressing texts such as the Book of Lamentations, the Book of Job, portions of Jeremiah and chapters of the Talmud that discuss the laws of mourning.[13]

In synagogue, prior to the commencement of the evening services, the parochet is removed or drawn aside lasting until after the fast. The parochet is the "curtain" or "screen"[14] normally covers and adorns the Aron Kodesh ("Torah Ark") containing the Sifrei Torah ("Torah scrolls").

According to the Rema it is customary to sit on low stools or on the floor, as is done during shiva, from the meal immediately before the fast, the seudah hamafseket, until midday (chatztot hayom). It is customary to eat a hard boiled egg, and a piece of bread dipped into ashes during this meal. The Beit Yosef rules that the custom to sit low to the ground extends until one prays Mincha (the afternoon prayer).

If possible, work is avoided during this period. Electric lighting may be turned off or dimmed, and kinnot recited by candlelight. Some sleep on the floor or modify their normal sleeping routine, by sleeping without a pillow, for instance. People refrain from greeting each other or sending gifts on this day. Old prayerbooks and Torah scrolls are often buried on this day.

The custom is to not put on Tefilin for morning services (Shacharit) of Tisha be-Av, and not a Talit, rather only wear the personal talit kattan without a blessing. At Mincha services Tzitzit and tefilin are worn, with proper blessings prior to donning them.[15]

End of fast[edit]

Although the fast ends at nightfall, according to tradition, the First Temple continued burning throughout the night and for most of the following day, the tenth of Av.[13] It is therefore customary to refrain from eating meat, drinking wine, bathing, cutting hair, doing laundry, listening to music, making a shehechiyanu blessing until midday (chatzos) of the following day.[16]

When Tisha B'Av begins on Saturday night, the Havdalah ritual at the end of Shabbat is truncated (using a candle but no spices), without a blessing over wine. After Tisha B'Av ends on Sunday evening, another Havdalah ceremony is performed with wine (without candle or spices).[17]

The laws of Tisha B'Av are recorded in the Shulchan Aruch (Literally "The Set Table", a code of Jewish Law") Orach Chayim 552-557.

Services[edit]

"Console, O Lord, the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and the city laid waste, despised and desolate. In mourning for she is childless, her dwellings laid waste, despised in the downfall of her glory and desolate through the loss of her inhabitants…. Legions have devoured her, worshippers of strange gods have possessed her. They have put the people of Israel to the sword… Therefore let Zion weep bitterly and Jerusalem give forth her voice… For You, O Lord, did consume her with fire and with fire will You in future restore her… Blessed are You, O Lord, Who consoles Zion and builds Jerusalem."

Abbreviated from the Nachem prayer.

The scroll of Eicha (Lamentations) is read in synagogue during the evening services. In addition, most of the morning is spent chanting or reading Kinnot, most bewailing the loss of the Temples and the subsequent persecutions, but many others referring to post-exile disasters. These later kinnot were composed by various poets (often prominent rabbis) who had either suffered in the events mentioned or relate received reports. Important kinnot were composed by Elazar ha-Kalir and Rabbi Judah ha-Levi. After the Holocaust, kinnot were composed by the German-born Rabbi Shimon Schwab (in 1959, at the request of Rabbi Joseph Breuer) and by Rabbi Solomon Halberstam, leader of the Bobov Hasidim (in 1984). Since Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza, some right wing segments of the Religious Zionist community have begun to recite kinnot to commemorate the expulsion of Jewish settlers from Gush Katif and northern West Bank on the day after Tisha B'Av, in 2005.[18]

In many Sephardic congregations the Book of Job is read on the morning of Tisha B'Av.

A paragraph that begins Nahem ("Console...") is added to the conclusion of the blessing Boneh Yerushalayim ("Who builds Jerusalem") recited during the Amidah (for Ashkenazim, only at at the Mincha service). The prayer elaborates the mournful state of the Temple in Jerusalem. The concluding signature of the blessing is also extended to say "Blessed are You, O Lord, Who consoles Zion and builds Jerusalem." Various modern orthodox rabbis and Conservative rabbis have proposed amending Nachem as its wording no longer reflects the existence of a rebuilt Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, for example, issued a revised wording of the prayer and Rabbi Hayim David HaLevi proposed putting the prayer's verbs relating to the Temple's destruction into the past tense. However, such proposals have not been widely adopted.[19]

History of the observance[edit]

Lamenting in the synagogue, 1887

In the long period which is reflected in Talmudic literature the observance of the Ninth Day of Av assumed a character of constantly growing sadness and asceticism. By the end of the second century or at the beginning of the third, the celebration of the day had lost much of its gloom. Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi was in favor of abolishing it altogether or, according to another version, of lessening its severity when the fast had been postponed from Saturday to Sunday (Talmud, Tractate Megillah 5b).

The growing strictness in the observance of mourning customs in connection with the Ninth Day of Av became pronounced in post-Talmudic times, and particularly in one of the darkest periods of Jewish history, from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth.

Maimonides (twelfth century), in his Mishneh Torah, says that the restrictions as to the eating of meat and the drinking of wine refer only to the last meal before fasting on the Eighth Day of Av, if taken after noon, but before noon anything may be eaten (Hilchoth Ta'anith 5:8). Rabbi Moses of Coucy (thirteenth century) wrote that it is the universal custom to refrain from meat and wine during the whole day preceding the Ninth of Av (Sefer Mitzvoth ha-Gadol, Venice ed., Laws of Tishah B'Av, 249b). Rabbi Joseph Caro (sixteenth century) says some are accustomed to abstain from meat and wine from the beginning of the week in which the Ninth Day of Av falls; and still others abstain throughout the three weeks from the Seventeenth of Tammuz (Shulkhan Arukh, Orach Chayim 551).

A gradual extension of prohibitions can be traced in the abstention from marrying at this season and in other signs of mourning. So Rabbi Moses of Coucy says that some do not use the tefillin ("phylacteries") on the Ninth Day of Av, a custom which later was universally observed (it is now postponed until the afternoon). In this manner all customs originally designated as marks of unusual piety finally became the rule for all.

In Israel[edit]

In Israel, restaurants and places of entertainment are closed on the eve of Tisha B'Av and the following day by law.[20] Establishments that break the law are subject to fines. Outside of Israel, the day is not observed by most secular Jews, as opposed to Yom Kippur, on which many secular Jews fast and go to synagogue. According to the Orthodox-Mizrachi establishment, combat soldiers are absolved of fasting on Tisha B'Av on the basis that it can endanger their lives. The latest of such decrees were issued during the Second Lebanon War by Israel's leading Rabbinical authorities: Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger in tandem with the IDF's chief rabbi, Brigadier General Yisrael Weiss.[21]

When Menachem Begin became Prime Minister, he wanted to unite all the memorial days and days of mourning on Tisha B'Av, so that Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day would also fall on this day.[22]

Contemporary opinions[edit]

Although agreeing that the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem had threatened the very survival of the Jewish people, Ismar Schorsch, former chancellor of the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary of America, downplayed its significance as having no appeal to the modern Jew who "no longer prays for the restoration of the sacrificial cult in Jerusalem." He viewed the day as having meaning since it had absorbed the “memory of other national disasters."[23] In Reform Judaism too, mourning the destruction of the Temple in such an elaborate fashion is not regarded as meaningful, as Reform has never assigned a central religious role to the ancient Temple.[24]

Berl Katznelson, a leader of the Labor Zionist movement, criticized his party's youth movement for holding campfires on Tisha B'Av in 1936. He believed that even secular Jews could find some meaning in traditional observances.[25]

A 2010 poll in Israel revealed the some 22% of Israelis fast on Tisha B'Av; another 52% honor the day by avoiding entertainment and not going out with friends.[26]

In relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict[edit]

As the main focus of the day recalls the destruction of the First and Second Temples and the subsequent scattering the Jewish nation into exile, the modern day re-establishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land has raised various attitudes within Judaism as to whether Tisha B'Av still has significance or not.

Some in the Conservative movement view the establishment of the State of Israel and the restoration of Jewish sovereign independence as “a great salvation” and conclude that it would be correct to commemorate this historic fact by concluding the fast after the midday service; others opine that the fast should be completed and cite the fact that even during the Second Temple period the fast was observed.[27]

Following the Six Day War, the national religious community viewed Israel’s territorial conquests with almost messianic overtones. The conquest of geographical areas with immense religious significance, including Jerusalem, the Western Wall and Temple Mount was seen as portentious; however only the full rebuilding of the Temple will engender enough reason to cease observing the day as one of mourning.[28] Some have always believed that until the arrival of the Messianic Era, Tisha B'Av will continue to be observed as a fast day.

Other traditions[edit]

Classical Jewish sources[29] maintain that the Jewish Messiah will be born on Tisha B'Av, though many explain this idea metaphorically, as the hope for the Jewish Messiah was born on Tisha B'Av with the destruction of the Temple.[30]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Elozor Barclay; Yitzchok Jaeger (2003). Guidelines: Over Four Hundred of the Most Commonly Asked Questions about the Three Weeks. Targum Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-56871-254-3. "Hashem condemned this day to become destined for national disasters throughout history..." 
  2. ^ Pinchos Yehoshua Ellis (2005). Seasons in halacha. Targum Press. p. 267. ISBN 978-1-56871-369-4. "Tisha B'Av initially became destined for tragedy..." 
  3. ^ Mishna Taanit 4:6 read online; Orthodox Union page on Tisha B'Av. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
  4. ^ "AB, NINTH DAY OF". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  5. ^ The First Temple's destruction began on the 7th of Av (2 Kings 25:8) and continued until the 10th (Jeremiah 52:12). The fire was lit on the afternoon of the 9th (Ta'anit 29a)
  6. ^ a b c d Becher, Rabbi Mordechai (1995). "History of Events on Tisha B'Av". ohrnet. Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  7. ^ a b Barclay, Rabbi Elozor; Jaeger, Rabbi Yitzchok (2003). Guidelines: Over Four Hundred of the Most Commonly Asked Questions About the Three Weeks. Targum Press. ISBN 1-56871-254-5. . Note that July 31 is the Julian calendar date; corrected for the Gregorian calendar it would be August 10.
  8. ^ Rubin, Rabbi G. (2001). "The Giving of the Torah". Shavuot. Ohr Sameach. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  9. ^ "Tisha B'Av & other Fast Days". Kolel. 
  10. ^ Erbstösser, Martin (1978). The Crusades. UK: Brunel House. ISBN 9780876633311. 
  11. ^ Rich, Tracey R. "Tisha B'Av". jewfaq.org. 
  12. ^ Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Hebrew)
  13. ^ a b Donin, Hayim Halevy (1991). To Be a Jew. Basic Books. p. 264. ISBN 0-465-08632-2. 
  14. ^ Sonne Isaiah (1962) 'Synagogue' in The Interpreter's dictionary of the Bible vol 4, New York: Abingdon Press pp 476-491
  15. ^ Yosef Karo (1488 - 1575) (Joseph ben Ephraim Karo) (1563-5). Shulchan Aruch/Orach Chaim/555 - Code of Jewish Law. 
  16. ^ Shulchan Aruch w/Mishnah Brurah 558:1
  17. ^ Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 125:6
  18. ^ "Tisha B'Av: Special Gush Katif Kinna". Machon Shilo. December 11, 2008. 
  19. ^ ""Nachem": to change or not to change? – Ask the Rabbi". OzTorah. August 2008. 
  20. ^ "Tisha B'Av: Mourning Destruction but Hoping for Redemption". Arutz Sheva. August 8, 2011. 
  21. ^ Sela, Neta (August 1, 2006). "Soldiers Exempted From Tisha B'Av Fast". Ynet. 
  22. ^ Dreaming of the Third Temple in a conflicted Land of Israel, Haaretz, July 20, 2010.
  23. ^ Schorsch, Ismar. "Tisha b'Av (I)". Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Archived from the original on 2007-08-05. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  24. ^ "Tishah B'Av - URJ". urj.org. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  25. ^ Snitkof, Rabbi Ed. "Secular Zionism - My Jewish Learning". www.myjewishlearning.com. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  26. ^ Brackman, Rabi Levi and Rivkah Lubitch. "Poll: 74% follow Tisha B'Av tradition". Israel Jewish Scene, Ynetnews. www.ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  27. ^ Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement 1927-1970 - Volume III Ed. David Golinkin, The Rabbinical Assembly, Jerusalem, 1997. Responsa relating to this topic in this volume include Marriage during the Sefirah 1949; Restraint on Marriages During the Omer Days 1952; A Dvar Torah Suggested by Lab Baomer 1962; Weddings During the Three Weeks 1964; Weddings During the Three Weeks 1968.
  28. ^ Ben Meir, Yehuda. "The Disengagement: An Ideological Crisis". Strategic Assessment, March 2005, Vol. 7, No. 4. The Institute for National Security Studies. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  29. ^ Jerusalem Talmud, Berachos 2:4;
  30. ^ Silberberg, Naftali. "Is it true that the Messiah will be born (or was born) on Tisha b'Av?". AskMoses.com. Retrieved 2007-07-22. 

External links[edit]