“Tisha B’Av”, means the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av. Tisha B’Av is the day that Solomon’s temple destroyed in 586 BC, but astonishingly, also the second temple was destroyed on 9th Av 70 AD – on exactly the same date, on exactly the same spot. Some people say it is like the Jewish 9/11 – perhaps you can imagine the devastation if something as terrible as that happened twice, in the same place, on the same date.
Tisha B’Av marks not only these two events but also many other tragedies that have happened to the Jewish people on this date
It is said that the temples fell for “baseless hatred”, or lack of brotherly love, and as you can see below, many of the other events that fell upon this same date also result from a lack of love that has led to great suffering. Here are a few examples, but there are many more:
- Tradition holds that the Bar Kokhba revolt was crushed on 9th Av in 132 AD, and that the Romans killed 100,000 Jews
- The following year on 9th Av, the Romans ploughed the site of the temple area, putting salt there so nothing could grow on it
- The First Crusade officially commenced on Av 9, 4856 according to the Jewish calendar (August 15, 1096 in the Gregorian calendar), killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland.
- Jews were expelled from England on Av 9, 5050 (July 25, 1290) 
- Jews were expelled from Spain on Av 8-9, 5252 (July 31, 1492). 
- On the eve of Tisha B’Av 5702 (July 23, 1942), the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.
The restaurants and entertainment venues are shut by law on 9th Av, and it is considered inappropriate to laugh, joke or even to greet one another warmly on this day. Similar to the restrictions of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, it is traditional to fast from food and drink, not to wash or use cosmetics, and to sit on low stools, in a darkened environment. Even reading the Bible, which is considered a pleasurable activity, is forbidden, except Lamentations and Job. Lamentations is particularly pertinent, as it is a dirge written to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem the first time round. Of course, not everyone abides by these traditions in Israel, but most mark it with respect.
It is also said that it was on this date, the 9th Av, that God refused Israel entry into the Promised Land because they didn’t believe Joshua and Caleb’s faithful assurances that they could overcome the gigantic Canaanites with God’s help, but instead believed the despairing report of the other ten spies.
“And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. Rabbah said in the name of R. Johanan: ‘That night was the ninth of Av. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them: “You have wept without cause, therefore I will set [this day] aside for a weeping throughout the generations to come”’. (Eicah Rabba Petichta 33)
Sometimes things are linked together in Rabbinic literature because they are closely connected in concept, rather than actual historical accuracy, but it is interesting that the reluctance to enter the Promised Land was seen as the beginning of this cycle of sorrow.
This day of mourning has gone back for millennia, and is mentioned in the book of Zechariah
The first temple had been destroyed, and it had already become tradition to weep for it on Tisha B’Av. A man from Bethel asked the prophets of God, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month [Av is the fifth month], as I have done for so many years?” Zechariah brings God’s reply;
“When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? …Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”Zechariah 7:3-10
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.” 1 John 4:7-13
Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash