Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Toward Tisha B'Av - mourning destruction and exile

by Ken Houghton

With the new moon (Rosh Hodesh), tonight begins the month of Av:
From the first to the ninth of Av, it is customary to refrain from eating meat or drinking wine (except on the Shabbat) and from wearing new clothing.

Why is Tisha B'Av so feared? Think Friday the 13th with a lot of broken mirrors:
Five misfortunes befell our fathers ... on the ninth of Av. ...On the ninth of Av it was decreed that our fathers should not enter the [Promised] Land, the Temple was destroyed the first and second time, Bethar was captured and the city [Jerusalem] was ploughed up. -Mishnah Ta'anit 4:6

Some of those misfortunes may have been arbitrary set:
How then are these dates to be reconciled? On the seventh the heathens entered the Temple and ate therein and desecrated it throughout the seventh and eighth and towards dusk of the ninth they set fire to it and it continued to burn the whole of that day. ... How will the Rabbis then [explain the choice of the 9th as the date]? The beginning of any misfortune [when the fire was set] is of greater moment. -Talmud Ta'anit 29a

but we know well the next nine days are not historically good ones for Israelites or Jews:
Although this holiday is primarily meant to commemorate the destruction of the Temple, it is appropriate to consider on this day the many other tragedies of the Jewish people, many of which occurred on this day, most notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492

There is, unfortunately, little reason to believe this month of Av will be any better--either for the Israelis or the country being attacked in undeclared war.
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