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Tisha B'Av: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Rav Richard Aharon Chaimberlin

Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av) is the most somber day on the Jewish calendar. It usually occurs in late July or early August. It is the date on which the first Beit HaMikdash (Temple) was destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE.[1] The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans under Titus on the very same date, Tisha B'Av, in 70 CE. In both cases, there was also enormous human suffering, with hundreds of thousands of Jews dying of starvation or in battle against their enemies.

However, it is the destruction of the Temples that is commemorated, not the loss of lives. The primary reason for this is because Temple worship brought mankind into a closer relationship with the Almighty. With the destruction of the Temples, this intimacy was lost. It is mind boggling that the destruction of both Temples occurred on the same exact day, albeit centuries apart.

Curiously, many other terrible events occurred on Tisha B'Av throughout history. According to the Rabbis, the date on which the ten spies came back with a bad report about the Promised Land (Numbers 13:23-33) occurred on Tisha B'Av. This resulted in the Israelites in the wilderness for another 38 years.

The Ninth of Av is a Jewish holiday, not a holy day. Normal work and commerce can be done on this day. However, it is a day of fasting, in this case, like Yom Kippur, from sunset to sunset. However, unlike Yom Kippur,[2] if Tisha B'Av occurs on Shabbat, its observance is pushed off to Sunday, because Shabbat is supposed to be a day of feasting and joyful worship. Jeremiah's Book of Lamentations is generally read on this day, followed by a break fast after sunset. It is described in Zechariah 8:19 as the fast of the fifth month.[3]However, according to this verse, these same fast days "will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts of the house of Judah." There will be a rebuilt Temple someday!

Several other terrible events also took place on Tisha B'Av:

  • In 135 CE, the Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by the Romans when the city of Betar was destroyed. Over 100,000 Jews died.

  • In 1095, the First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Jews being murdered.

  • In 1290, King Edward I issued an edict on Tisha B'Av expelling all Jews from England.

  • In 1492, an edict expelling all Jews from Spain was carried out on Tisha B'Av.

  • In 1994, the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 86 and wounding 300 others.

  • In 2005, 7000 Jewish residents of Gaza were expelled by their own Israeli government as a peace gesture. Of course, this only resulted in thousands of rockets and mortars being fired by Gaza's Arab residents against nearby Israeli towns and villages, as well as wars being launched by Hamas against Israel.

However, it wasn't all bad. When the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 586 BCE, they dispersed the Jews throughout the Babylonian Empire. As a result, the Torah and the Word of God went forth to the pagan nations, informing them of the one true God. Some Jews did quite well in exile. Daniel became Prime Minister to Nebuchadnezzar, a

nd Esther became queen of the Persian Empire!

The destruction of the Second Temple also resulted in the Jewish people being dispersed, this time throughout the Roman Empire. In Jerusalem alone, there were "many myriads among the Jews who have believed." [4] The term myriad means "ten thousand." Therefore, there were tens of thousands of Messianic Jews[5] in Jerusalem, and many more tens of thousands of Messianic Jews throughout the rest of Israel.

When the Romans dispersed the Jewish people from Israel, they also dispersed many tens of thousands of Messianic Jews. These Jewish believers carried the Besorah (Good News of Yeshua) with them throughout the Roman Empire, bringing knowledge of atonement and eternal life to the pagans in Europe. What HaSatan meant for evil, God turned around for good. (See Romans 8:28.)

The Babylonian, Roman, Spanish, and British Empires are gone. Today Israel is the most powerful nation in the Middle East. HaShem promises to bless those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse Israel, according to Gen. 12:3, 26:4, 27:29; Num. 23:8, 24:9; Isaiah 41:11, 54:15-17, 60:12; Mat. 25:40-45.

[1] "Before Common Era," equivalent to B.C. [2] "Day of Atonement." [3] In Exodus 12:2, the first month of the year was changed to Aviv (Nissan). In the Creation calendar, the month of Tishrei was the first month of the year. [4] Acts 21:20. [5] In the First Century, they were called the Way (HaDerech), or simply Jews (Acts 22:3-4).

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