TO Sit and Cry on Tisha B' Av

     Every nation in human history has had tragic days on which calamities befell them. Wars were lost; great floods or fires, or terrible plagues took place.

    Most people, including the Jews, prefer to commemorate happy event. But the Jews observe sad occasions as well. One such day is few thousands of years old. It is called Tisha B'av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av), and recalls the tragic happenings that took place that day. First, the Babylonians, and then, years later, the Romans, each time on the 9th day of Av, defeated the Jewish people and destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

     It was a painful memory, and life would have been more pleasant if the Jews could have forgotten it. But they wanted to remember. Not because they like to think of sad events, but because the Temple had meant so much to them in the past. It had become a symbol of our religion; it was regarded as the "House of G-d." When the Babylonians destroyed the first Temple, the Jews built a second one. But after the Romans destroyed even that one, the Jews were exiled from Jerusalem and the conquerors turned the city into a pagan Roman town.

     Afterwards, the Jews worshipped G-d on their synagogues, but wherever they live and no matter how contented they felt otherwise, they observed Tisha B'av by fasting and praying. Jewish people who has never even seen Jerusalem or the Temple wept in grief over the loss, because every Jew who took his Judaism seriously, felt that Zion was part his soul. Without it, he felt something missing in his life.

     After the first destruction, when the Jews of the Kingdom of Judah were taken captive and exiled to Babylonia, they gathered "by the waters of Babylon" and wept over the loss of the Temple. In their mind's eye they saw again the sorrowful scene of king Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonians burning down the Temple of Solomon. When the temple was rebuilt, there was for a time no need for sorrow. But after the Roman destruction of the second Temple, the sad memory was revived. Those who saw it could never forget the streets being torn up by the Romans, while Jews by the thousands were killed or transported as slaves to Rome and other parts of the Roman Empire.

      For hundreds of years, Jews fasted on the ninth day of Av, and came together in their synagogues to mourn for the Temple of old. They took off their shoes and sat down on the floor, Boeing their heads low. To show their intense grief. At the Tisha B'av service itself, the Biblical selection is the Book of Lamentations. This was written by the great prophet Yirmiah (Jeremiah). Lamentations is ready because it deals mostly with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.

The mood of the day was always a sad one, but it was not one of complete despair. The people still could look to the future. There was always the hope that, with the help of G-d the Jews would one day return and make Jerusalem their city, and Mount Zion a holy place. They never really gave up hope.

   We as Jews cannot forget the sorrows of the past. And so, as Jews have done for hundreds of years, we go to the synagogues, to fast and bewail the burning of the first and second Holy Temples and the scatterings of our people in exile all over the world. Even in the modern State of Israel, this tragic day in our people's history is commemorated. At sundown, on the evening before, many cinemas and theaters are closed; there is complete stillness in many parts of the land, as people go to the synagogue and begin the long, sad chanting of the Book of Lamentations.

    Many Jews would also go to the Wailing Wall, the last remaining piece of the Wall of the Holy Temple, to pray all day.

    As we mourn over the destruction of our Holy Temple, May we merit to see the rebuilding of it-soon in our days-Amen!

© 2017 by Shalom Magazine