The Fast of the Ninth Day of Av (Tisha’ Be’Av), July 20, 2010

Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought,” July 18, 2010

Based on ancient Jewish Sages

1. Faith, Morality, Commemoration and Optimism Underlining National Jewish Fasts:

    * Jewish fasts commemorate critical historical and value-driven junctions, highlighting moral clarity, which constitutes a prerequisite to operational and existential clarity. Memory is Deliverance; forgetfulness is oblivion.

    * Fasts highlight the difference between Oblivion (exile) and Deliverance (ingathering of Jews to their Homeland) and the moral requirements for Deliverance.

    * Lamentation of past catastrophes symbolizes a sustained process of learning from past errors, paving the road to deliverance. The custom of house-cleaning on the 9th day of Av aims at welcoming deliverance.

    * Fasts represent the recognition of one’s limitations and fallibility and the constant pursuit of moral enhancement, bolstering humility.

    * Fasts – and the inherent adherence to commemoration – play a key role in the perpetual battle against negative influence.

    * Fasts constitute a cardinal element of national, communal and family cohesion, emphasizing value-driven common denominator of identity.

    *Fasts are a reminder that personal and national life consists of Ups and Downs, cautioning against euphoric and fatalistic mood. For example, the commemoration of national calamities by the fast of the 9th day of Av is succeeded by the 15th day of Av – a holiday of love and rapprochement.

2. Napoleon was walking at night in the streets of Paris, hearing sad voices emanating from a synagogue. When told that the wailing/lamenting commemorated a 586 BCE catastrophe – the destruction of the First Temple – he stated: “Any People which solemnizes its ancient history is destined for a glorious future!”

3. The Ninth Day of Av is the most calamitous day in Jewish history. Fasting on Tisha’ Be’Av commemorates catastrophic national destructions and the moral causes for the destruction. It was first mentioned in the book of Zechariah 7:3.

4. Major national calamities in Jewish history occurred on the Ninth Day of Av (July 30, 2009):

    *The failed “Ten Spies/tribal presidents” (VS. Joshua & Caleb) – who slandered the Land of Israel, preferring immediate convenience and conventional “wisdom” over faith and long term vision – which prolonged the wandering in the desert for 40 years.

    *The destruction of the First Temple and Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (586BC) – 100,000 killed and a national exile.

    *The destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem by Titus of Rome (70CE) – 1MN killed and a national exile.

    *Bar Kochba (Great) Rebellion crashed (135CE) with the fall of Beitar (in Gush Etzion, Judea & Samaria) and the plowing of Jerusalem by Quintus Tinius Rofus, the Roman Governor – 580,000 killed.

    *First Crusade Pogroms (1096) – scores of thousands slaughtered.

    *Jewish expulsion from Britain (1290).

    *Jewish expulsion from Spain (1492).

    *WW1 erupted (1914).

    *Warsaw Ghetto Uprising crashed by the Nazis (May 1943) – 50,000 slaughtered.

5. The Ninth Day of Av is the central of the Four Days of Fast, which commemorate the destruction of the First Temple: 10th Day of Tevet (the onset of the siege that Nebuchadnezzar laid to Jerusalem), 17th day of Tamuz (the walls of Jerusalem were breached), 9th day of Av (destruction of both Temples) and 3rd day of Tishrey (The murder of Governor Gedalyah, who maintained a level of post-destruction Jewish autonomy, which led to a murder rampage by the Babylonians and to the exile of the Jews).

6. The Ninth Day of Av culminates the Three Weeks of Predicament (“Yemey Beyn Hameitzareem” in Hebrew), starting on the 17th day of the month of Tamuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by Nebuchadnezzar (1st Temple) and by Titus (2nd Temple).

7. The month of Av represents Faith in G-D (in spite of calamities) and a transformation from Curse to Blessing & Consolation, which is also represented by the two Hebrew letters of AV (“Aroor” = cursed and “Barookh”=blessed). The Hebrew letters of AV constitute the letters of Father (a synonym to G-D) and the first two letters of “EVEL” (mourning). The transformation from Curse to Blessing could forge one’s character, as suggested by the numerical value of AV (Aleph=1 and Bet=2), which is Three, the combination of the basic even and odd numbers (King Solomon: “A triangular string/knot cannot be broken”). The zodiac sign of Av is a lion, which represents the Lion of Judah, rising in the aftermath of destruction. Aharon – the embodiment of human kindness – died on the 1st day of Av.

8. The Ninth Day of Av concludes a series of three Torah readings (Haphtarah) of Jewish calamities (two by the Prophet Jeremiah and one by the Prophet Yeshaayahu), and launches a series of seven Torah readings of consolations (by Yeshaayahu).

9. The Book of (5) Lamentations (The Scroll of Eikhah which was composed by Jeremiah the Prophet, who prophesized destruction, exile and deliverance) is read on the Ninth Day of Av and since the first day of Av. The numerical value of Eikhah is 36, which is equal to the traditional number of righteous Jewish persons. The Hebrew meaning of Eikhah could be construed as “A reproaching How Come?!”, as well as “Where are you?” (Why have you strayed away?). The first three Hebrew letters of Eikhah mean “How” and the fourth/last letter stands of G-D

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