Tisha B’Av, a Day that Lives in Infamy

Tisha B’Av begins Saturday night. Although it marks the day in which both Jewish Temples were destroyed, the Jewish People endured many tragic events on this specific day throughout history.

Tisha B'Av at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem (Photo - Miriam Alster Flash90)

This weekend marks Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the Jewish calendar month of Av. Known most specifically as the day in which both Jewish Temples were destroyed, it has over history been a day in which the Jewish People have experienced great tragedy and suffering.

It is traditionally a day of mourning, marked by religious ritual observances and fasting to emphasize the grief symbolized by this day.

The magnitude of events that repeatedly occur on this particular date are an interesting coincidence even for the non-religious. The first significant event to occur on this day, according to the Jewish tradition, was with the return of the 12 spies who were sent to investigate the land of Israel over 3300 years ago. The negative report of ten of the spies led to great despair among the Israelites who had just escaped Egypt, and subsequently condemning them to spend 40 years wandering in the desert.

Nearly a thousand years later in 586 B.C.E, the First Temple, the Solomon Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed on this day by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezar. About 100,000 Jews were killed during the invasion. The Jewish People then experience the first major exile of the remaining tribes in the kingdom to Babylon and Persia.

The Second Temple, the magnificent Herodian Temple, was destroyed on this day as well in 70 C.E. by the Roman Empire, under Titus. Around 2,500,000 Jews died as a result of the war and an estimated 1,000,000 Jews were exiled to all parts of the Roman Empire. Thus began the 2000 year banishment of the Jewish People from the ancestral land in which they had lived for over 1000 years.

The Israel Forever Foundation writes about the significance of this –

“The destruction of the Jewish Temple meant the destruction of the most holy, pivotal location to the Jewish religion, culture and people. Destruction of the Temple was an attempt to destroy the Jewish nation – take out the cultural linchpin, the one element that ties everyone together and everything will fall apart.

The Jewish people did not forget what was lost and insisted on upholding Jerusalem above all other joys. This was a key element in keeping the Nation of Israel intact, through 2000 years of exile and ultimately led us back to Zion and Jerusalem.”

The tragedies on the 9th day of Av did not end there. In 132 C.E. the Bar Kochva Revolt against the Romans was crushed and exactly one year later, under order of Emperor Hadrian, the Temple was plowed over and the attempt to erase the Jewish connection to the city and the land was put into motion as Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina and the Land of Israel renamed “Palestina”.

The Ninth of Av continued to present the Jews with murderous tragedy during the years of exile. In 1095, the First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II. Thousands of Jews would be murdered and many Jewish communities in Rhineland and France were erased.

On this day in 1290 the Jewish community in England suffered an expulsion and pogroms in which over 100,000 Jews would perish. The same fate would be met by the French Jewish community in 1306 on this very day.

More historically significant on this day was the expulsion of the Jews of Spain and the Iberian Peninsula in 1492.

Most recently, on this day in 1942, during WWII, began the dismantling of the Warsaw Ghetto and the transportation of its Jewish residents to Treblinka extermination camp.

The Israel Forever foundation summarizes the significance of this day most eloquently –

“Few people on earth can say that they are part of a more than 3000 year old love story. We can. It doesn’t matter if we are religious or not, Tisha B’Av offers us the opportunity to connect to our Jewish roots, our history, Jerusalem and the Temple in her heart, the tragedies suffered by our ancestors and the miracles that enable us to be alive and reading this today.”

Despite the horrendous tragedies we have encountered on this day, Tisha B’Av is but a day rife with memory. The Jewish People though, endure tragedy and prevail. The Jewish People are eternal.


Daniel Seaman is the editor of the English edition of Mida.org Online magazine

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