Tisha B’Av: A Time to Mourn

Tisha B’Av, or the Ninth of Av, is a Jewish fast day commemorating the catastrophe the Israelites experienced in the wilderness (Numbers 14:1; Talmud Ta’anith 29a), the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (Zech. 7:5, 8:19), and, according to tradition, it was on this same date in 70 AD that the Romans under Titus destroyed the Second Temple. Many other national disasters have also been associated with this date, including the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, the beginning of World War I in 1914, and the proposition of the “final solution” during the Holocaust in 1940.  As a result, Tisha B’Av has come to stand for national calamity in general. This year, Tisha B’Av falls on Saturday evening, August 13th.

Tisha B’Av is commemorated with prayer and fasting. Mourning restrictions apply – shaving and the wearing of leather are banned. No greetings are exchanged. Synagogue lights are dimmed. The somber book of Lamentations, written by the prophet Jeremiah after the destruction of the First Temple, is read in synagogues. In Israel, mourners throng the Western Wall, the last vestige of the Second Temple, in order to recite kinot (elegies).

Tisha B’Av and the New Covenant

Yeshua lived nearly 40 years before the destruction of the Second Temple, yet He predicted it with poignant accuracy. (Mark 13:1-2, Luke 19:41-44)  He said, “Not one stone will be left upon another.” These words indeed came to pass, as their fulfillment saw nothing left of what, in its time, was one of the grandest buildings on the face of the earth. As He foretold these things, He talked of other dreadful things that must come to pass. He spoke of unparalleled days of distress – so awful that not a soul would survive if HaShem did not cut the days short. (Mark 13:20) Yeshua also predicted the coming of many counterfeit “Messiahs” (Mark 13:22) and warned His followers to beware.

Tisha B’Av and the Coming Hope

Tisha B’Av is a somber, but not a hopeless holy day. There is a silver lining to this dark cloud. According to the prophet Zechariah, “The fasts of the fourth, fifth (i.e., Tisha B’Av), seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah.” (Zech 8:19) The picture Zechariah paints in the ensuing verses is a very positive one for Am Israel (the people of Israel), and harks back to the vision of Zechariah 2, foretelling the day when God himself will dwell among His people. (Zech 2:10)

Yeshua and the Coming Hope

Like the prophets before Him, Yeshua did not speak of disaster without also speaking of restoration: “At that time, men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heaven.” (Mark 13:26-27; compare Zech 2:6)

According to Zechariah, the Temple would be rebuilt by someone he calls “the Branch.” (Zec 6:12-13) This “Branch” would reign as King, but He would also be a Priest!  Under the Torah of Moses, kings came from the line of Judah through David, and the priests came from the line of Levi through Aaron.  Since the fulfillment of both roles by one person was impossible under the Torah of Moses, this is another indication of the coming New Covenant that would be established by Yeshua in order that Messiah could “fulfill all righteousness.” (Jer 31:31-34; Mat 3:15)

On this day, we pray with Israel, mourning, but not as those without hope. (1 Thess 4:13)  We who know Messiah have a message of hope and life to share with those who have only sorrow and pain.  Let us especially take this opportunity to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the Prince of Peace to be exalted among the Jewish people. May He indeed turn sorrow into joy and wipe away every tear by His grace and love.

Hebrew Year Common Year Events Traditionally Understood to have Occurred on Tisha B’Av
2447 1413 B.C.E. Moses broke the first tablets of the Law when he came down from Sinai and found the people worshipping the golden calf.
2448 1412 B.C.E. Spies return from 40 days in Israel with evil reports of the Land of Israel. Jewish people cry in despair, give up hope of entering the Land of Israel.
3340 580 B.C.E. Destruction of First Temple by the Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezzar. About 100,000 Jews killed during invasion. Exile of remaining tribes in Southern Kingdom to Babylon and Persia.
3830 70C.E. Destruction of Second Temple by Romans, under Titus. Over 2,500,000 Jews die as a result of war, famine and disease. Over 1,000,000 Jews exiled to all parts of the Roman Empire. Over 100,000 Jews sold as slaves by Romans. Jews killed and tortured in gladiatorial “games” and pagan celebrations.
3892 132 Bar Kochba revolt crushed. Betar destroyed – over 100,00 killed.
3893 133 Turnus Rufus ploughs site of Temple. Romans build pagan city of Aelia Capitolina on site of Jerusalem.
 4451 691 The Temple Mount appropriated by Islamic leaders, who built a major Islamic shrine on Judaism’s holiest site .
4855 1095 First Crusade declared by Pope Urban II. 10,000 Jews killed in first month of Crusade. Crusades bring death and destruction to thousands of Jews, totally obliterate many communities in Rhineland and France.
5050 1290 Expulsion of Jews from England by King Edward 1st, accompanied by pogroms and confiscation of books and property.
5252 1492 Inquisition in Spain and Portugal culminates in the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. Families separated, many die by drowning, massive loss of property.
5674 1914 Britain and Russia declare war on Germany. First World War begins. First World War issues unresolved, ultimately causing Second World War and Holocaust. 75% of all Jews lived in war zones, and were in armies of all sides. 120,000 Jewish casualties in armies. Over 400 pogroms immediately following war in Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and Russia.
 5700 1940 Hitler presented his plan to the Nazi Party on the “Final Solution” to the Jewish problem. One year later to the day, Himler’s “Plan” was formerly implemented.
5702 1942 Deportations from Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp begin.
5749 1989 Iraq walks out of talks with Kuwait.
5754 1994 The deadly bombing of the building of the AMIA (the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina) which killed 86 people and wounded some 300 others.
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