HomeAugust 2014TISHA B’AV


In a darkened sanctuary with only candles shedding light, people sit on the floor as they listen to the mournful reading of Eicha, Lamentations, vividly describing the destruction of the first temple by the Babylonians on Tisha b’Av (the ninth of Av) in 586 B.C.E. This is the traditional commemoration of that destruction. The poetry is graphic and disturbing, yet many Jews today aren’t as aware of the horror of that cataclysmic event that ripped apart the lives and the world of our ancestors.
Tisha b’Av, traditionally a fast day, marks the end of a three-week period of mourning which commemorates the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of the First Temple, as well as the desecration and destruction of the Second Temple on the day in 70 C.E.
The ninth of Av also happens to be the day that Jews were expelled from England in 1290, and the day that Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. Other tragedies have occurred on this day, too.  Germany entered World War I on August 1–2, 1914 (Av 9-10), causing a massive upheaval in European Jewry whose aftermath led to the Holocaust. On August 2, 1941 (Av 9), the Nazi Party officially approved “The Final Solution.” And on July 23, 1942 (Av 9), the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka occurred. Any way you look at it, the ninth of Av has not been a good day for the Jewish people.
Yet today, Tisha b’Av is far less acknowledged than it has been in the past.  In recent times, a number of modern thinkers have challenged the continued relevance of Tisha b’Av.  Today, we are no longer in exile. We have returned to our ancient homeland, rebuilt our towns and are no longer powerless.  Some believe that Jews should not pray for the restoration of the sacrificial rituals associated with the ancient Temple.
But there are two other significant reasons for commemorating Tisha b’Av.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, there was an important shift in the life of the Jewish people to a way of life focused on Torah and Jewish Law rather than Temple worship. While the seeds of rabbinic Judaism had been around for a while, it was this destruction and expulsion that propelled the development of  Rabbinic Judaism.
And the second reason: It isn’t just ancient history.  It’s also the awful, gruesome reality for many people today; those horrible images depicted in Lamentations are actually happening in the world. So, this August 5 (Tisha b’Av), consider reading Lamentations, or maybe finding a synagogue service and listening to the haunting lament of our ancestors under siege.
This month’s issue of JLife features perspectives on education: Jews’ level of education compared to the public at large, different programs offered in the community for both children and adults and the opportunities Jewish students have to connect with their heritage on OC college campuses. Enjoy!

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