Tisha B’Av means simply the ninth (tisha) day of the Hebrew month of Av. It is a time of collective mourning and reflection for Jews in Israel and around the world beginning this year on Saturday evening, August 6th, as the Sabbath draws to a close, until Sunday August 7th at sunset.
In Jewish tradition, it was on the 9th day of this summer month that our people, our nation, were visited time and again by tragedy.
It was on this day in 1313 BCE that the 10 Spies returned from the Promised Land with a negative, faithless report leaving Israel to wander in the desert for 40 years.
Both of the Jerusalem Temples were destroyed on this date in history. The First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second Temple fell to the Romans in 70 CE. The exile that resulted brought a period of suffering from which our nation has never fully recovered.
The Bar Kochba Revolt against the Romans in 133 CE ended in defeat with Jews being annihilated on the 9th of Av.
Many more tragedies have been recorded on this day as well, including the expulsion of England’s Jews in 1290 and the eviction of all Jews from Spain in 1492.
Why Do We Still Mourn?
In Judaism, we are taught to value not only the good memories, but also times of pain and suffering. Whether it is national crisis, a death or loss in the family, or among friends, we leave everything and go to spend time with our loved ones. These are crucial times for a family, community or nation to pass through a period of mourning and reflection together. This is how we express and experience true compassion as we “weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.”
In Judaism, we are taught to value these seasons and the memories of our lost ones. We have days and seasons in memorial of our own loss and pain, but also to identify with and remember the tragedies that our people as a nation have gone through. We fast and mourn together, and this helps us not only to remember and learn from the past, but also to bring comfort to those who still mourn, for we are one people and one nation.
We remember, lest we forget.
I asked a number of Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus if they participate in this special day of fasting and remembrance, but many of them knew nothing at all of the meaning of Tisha B’Av and said that because it is not in the Bible and is “only” a Jewish tradition they would not be participating.
Jason Silverman, one young Jewish believer in Yeshua, had a different perspective:
Tisha B’Av is definitely not something found in the Bible and was instituted by the rabbis. Therefore, I don’t think that observing this day of remembrance is a question of obligation for believers.
However, I think that as members of the Jewish people, it is important for us to participate in events/commemorations/days of remembrance that the Jewish people collectively observe. Especially because this is a day of mourning over the tragedies that have fallen upon the Jewish people, including the destruction of both temples, and not religious tenets simple created by the rabbinic authorities.
I think that there are different ways of observing/participating besides fasting. One is by reading the Book of Lamentations and reflecting on difficulties in life, both on the individual and collective levels. This also gives us a chance to reflect on God’s sovereignty and the need for our trust amidst hardship. At the same time, we can reflect on our confidence in God and His promises as we learn that despite the multiple tragedies that have occurred throughout Jewish history, including the Holocaust, that the Jewish people remain, as does a believing remnant.”
Even as we mourn on this day, there is still an element of joy and comfort. During the day we chant the Book of Lamentations which concludes with the proclamation, “Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.”
It is no accident that Tisha B’Av is considered a mo’ed, one of the “appointed seasons” or Jewish holidays, all of which are given to inspire us to press on towards the Kingdom of God recognizing that all our sufferings are but a prelude to the joy that comes with our Messiah.