Today is Tisha B’av. Considered to be the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, it commemorates some of the most difficult occurrences in Jewish history. According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6), five devastating occurrences that have impacted the Jewish people, occurred on the 9th day of the month of Av (Av falls in the July/August period of the Gregorian calendar).
These five events are;
- The majority of spies sent by Moses into the land of Canaan, returned with a negative report, which elicited a fear-based response amongst the Hebrews in the desert. Having become fearful, they doubted God’s promise to give them the land of Canaan and thus grieved Him, who had brought them so far with many miracles to protect and provide for them. There is a quote in the Mishnah in which God references that this day would continue to bring difficulty for His people in the future.
- The first temple built in Jerusalem under Solomon’s reign, was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.
- The second temple, rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah, was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE and the Jewish people were expelled from their land with violence and cruelty.
- A powerful revolt against the Roman occupation of Israel, led by Simon Bar Kokhba which seemed hopeful, was crushed by the totalitarian regime. Over half million Jewish people were murdered in retaliation for the revolt.
- Further to this genocide, The Roman commander, Turnus Rufus, razed the Temple and its grounds. Rubble from its destruction still remains at the site today.
There are many remarkable and sad events that have affected the Jewish people, which have occurred on this date of the 9th of Av. A significant one for the United Kingdom was the expulsion of Jewish people from England in 1290.
Many centuries later, it was on the 9th of Av that Germany entered into the first world war, which began a chain of events enabling the dictatorial rule of Adolf Hitler. That led to the horror of the Holocaust in which six million Jewish people, ethnic minorities, vulnerable and disabled people were brutally abused and murdered.
In light of the gravity of these events, and their devastating impact, the Jewish people take this period each year to reflect upon these occurrences. To grapple with these deeply sorrowful events and occurrences, and to seek God for understanding and comfort.
The Jewish people will fast, reflect and pray. The book of lamentations will be read at services in the synagogue. Readings from other scriptures and religious writings, meditations, and personal and communal reflection will be practiced. There will be abstinence from many luxuries and pleasures, as people seek to facilitate a humble heart and clear mind, before the Lord.
This is an opportunity for us believers to join in reflection, consider the difficulties that the Jewish people have suffered, and to pray to God that He will comfort, restore and vindicate them in His son, the Jewish Messiah!
It is also an opportunity for us to consider how gracious and merciful God is, in that through every destructive and painful event, He has shown His character as faithful. God has caused the Jewish people to flourish into millions, despite so many attempts at annihilation against them over the centuries. And greater still, God has fulfilled His promise to send His people the ultimate comfort, a Saviour. That Saviour is His very own son, Jesus, and there cannot be a more tender act between God and His people. We are very much beloved to God, Jew and Gentile alike!