Tisha B’Av 5872
Rabbi Gary Pokras
The destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, which we commemorate and mourn on Tisha B’Av seem a long way off. It has been almost two-thousand years since the end of the sacrificial cult, and most contemporary Jews do not hope for its return.
According to Jewish tradition, our people suffered many tragedies on the 9th of Av:
1250 BCE – God decrees that the generation of Jews who left Egypt will wander for 40 years in the Wilderness before being allowed to enter the Promised Land.
586 BCE – The Babylonians destroy the First Temple and send our people into exile.
70 CE – The Romans destroy the Second Temple and kill, exile, or enslave many Jews.
135 CE – The Bar Kochba Revolt is defeated by the Romans. Most of the cities in central Israel are left in ruins.
632 CE – Jerusalem falls under Arab rule and Jews are expelled from our holy city.
1096 CE – The First Crusade: crusaders attack Jewish communities in Germany on their way to fight in the Holy Land.
1146 CE – The Second Crusade: crusaders destroy Jewish communities in Germany and France on their way to fight in the Holy Land.
1189 CE – The Third Crusade leads to bloody anti-Jewish rioting throughout England.
1242 CE – Twenty-four cartloads of Talmud volumes are burned in Paris by church officials.
1290 CE – The Jews are expelled from England.
1306 CE – The Jews are expelled from France.
1480 CE – The inquisition begins.
1492 CE – The Jews are expelled from Spain.
1567 CE – The Jews are expelled from Italy.
1648 CE – Khmelnitsky and his mob massacre thousands of Polish Jews.
1882 CE – Government-instigated riots take place throughout the Pale of Russia.
1929 CE – Hundreds of Jews are killed by rioting Arabs in Hebron.
1945 CE – The Nazis selected this date for numerous “operations” for the mass murder of Jews.
How could all these things have happened on the same date? I do not know.
What I do know is that, as a people, we have faced – and survived – countless collective traumas.
The book of Lamentations, which we read on this day, expresses the agony of our pain: “How she sits alone, the city once great with people She has become a widow.” [Lam. 1:1] Yet, it also affirms our faith “Bring us back to You, Lord, that we come back, renew our days as of old.” [Lam. 5:21]
Perhaps, that is the meaning of Tisha B’Av. It reminds us of our fragility and both our resilience and God’s faithfulness. It reminds us to be wary of the exercise of imperial or autocratic power (under both secular and religious auspices) and it reminds us of our enduring covenantal relationship with God.
So, we mourn on this day. Yet, even as we mourn, we have faith that there are better days to come.