Tisha B’Av: Fasting on an ancient day of lamentation

The Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem, sunny day, pilgrims at wall

The Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET MONDAY, JULY 31: On the annual Jewish milestone of Tisha B’Av (the Ninth of Av), men and women traditionally fast for 25 hours, refrain from bathing, set aside pleasurable activities and focus on communal lament.

But the observance gets mixed response as modern-day Jewish families balance the demands of contemporary life with this call from the past.

Author Debra Darvick wrote in an earlier column: “Tisha B’Av, a Jewish day of mourning that falls during the summer, marks the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. … I have attended services sporadically, more out of a sense of responsibility than any feeling of true mourning. How do I mourn something absent from Jewish experience for nearly two millennia?”

Debra also wrote about the holiday for her book This Jewish Life.

A CASCADE OF MEMORIES

Historically, the First Temple was destroyed on 9 Av 586 BCE; the Second, on 9 Av 70 CE. (Wikipedia has details). The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians; the Second Temple, by the Romans. According to Jewish tradition, 9 Av is associated with other tragic milestones, as well, which have been added to this annual day of remembrance.

Also on 9 Av: The Romans quashed Bar Kokhba’s revolt and destroyed the city of Betar, killing more than 500,000 Jewish civilians; Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE; Germany entered World War I, the aftermath of which led to the Holocaust; and SS commander Himmler formally received approval from the Nazi Party for “The Final Solution.”

2017: PAINFUL DISAGREEMENT

This year, as the holiday approaches, Jewish newspapers and magazines around the world are covering a current, painful disagreement concerning the Western Wall (or Kotel)—a remnant of the Temple Mount that is a spiritual focus for Jews around the world. A recent decision by the Israeli government places even more authority in the hands of what are often described as “ultra-Orthodox” rabbis in Israel—rejecting the widespread hopes of American Jews for more inclusive access to the Wall, among other issues.

Care to read more? Here is recent coverage in The Jerusalem Post, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and The Jewish WeekFor a sampling of regional Jewish media across the U.S., check out The Jewish News of Northern California, or New Jersey Jewish News.

 

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