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Tisha B’Av  

Tisha B'Av is simply the Hebrew way to say "the 9th of Av." It is a day that is so horrible to Jewish people that we only remember it as a date, without giving it any special name.  That day begins at sunset tonight night, and will be observed until sundown tomorrow.  It is one of the two most solemn days to Jewish people everywhere.  Yom Kippur, the other major fast day, is known as the "White Fast" because it reminds us of atonement.  But this day, Tisha B'Av is known as the "Black Fast" because on it, we remember the destruction of the Temple; not once, but twice!  It is the day that the spies returned from their 40 day trek into the Promised Land.  But, when only two came back still believing the promise, Israel wept.  On the day when all Israel should have been celebrating, they wept!  And so, G-d decreed that on this day, throughout history, Jewish people would have something to weep for.

The actual intent of such practices are in preparation for coming to grips with Israel's sin which led to the loss of the Holy Places.  When the spies returned from the land, there was weeping when there should have been rejoicing.  So, throughout history, G-d has given Israel reason to mourn on this day, the ninth day of the month of Av. Here is a look at the events of this one day in the history of Israel:

Hebrew Year

Common Year




Spies return from 40 days in Israel with evil reports of the }
Land of Israel. Jewish people cry in
despair, give up hope of entering the Land of Israel.



Destruction of First Temple by the Babylonians, under
Nebuchadnezar. About 100,000 Jews killed
during invasion. Exile of remaining tribes in southern
kingdom to Babylon and Persia.



Destruction of Second Temple by Romans, under
Titus. Over 2,500,000 Jews die as a result of war,
famine and disease. Over 1,000,000 Jews exiled
to all parts of the Roman Empire. Over 100,000
Jews sold as slaves by Romans. Jews killed and
tortured in gladiatorial "games" and pagan celebrations.



Bar Kochba revolt crushed. Betar destroyed -
over 100,00 killed.



Turnus Rufus ploughs site of Temple. Romans
build pagan city of Aelia Capitolina on site of Jerusalem.



First Crusade declared by Pope Urban II. 10,000
Jews killed in first month of Crusade. Crusades
bring death and destruction to thousands of
Jews, totally obliterate many communities in
Rhineland and France.



Expulsion of Jews from England, accompanied by
pogroms and confiscation of books and property.



Inquisition in Spain and Portugal culminates in
the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula.
Families separated, many die by drowning, massive
loss of property.



Britain and Russia declare war on Germany.
First World War begins. First World War
issues unresolved, ultimately causing
Second World War and Holocaust.
75% of all Jews in war zones. Jews in
armies of all sides - 120,000 Jewish
casualties in armies. Over 400 pogroms
immediately following war in
Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and Russia.



Deportations from Warsaw Ghetto
to the Treblinka concentration camp begin.



Iraq walks out of talks with Kuwait.



The deadly bombing the building of the AMIA
(the Jewish community center in
Buenos Aires, Argentina)
which killed 86 people and wounded some 300 others.

Here are a couple of stories that will give you a special insight into this special day:

The Sin of the Spies

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Aish HaTorah Jerusalem

The Torah (Numbers 13-14) describes the famous story of the 12 spies - one from each tribe - who are sent into Israel to explore the land. Their mission seems rather innocuous at first: Determine how to battle the Canaanites and then settle three million men, women and children in the new land. The spies are sent (ostensibly) to survey practical matters like fortification of the cities, geography of the land, opportunities for farming and commerce, the best access routes, etc.

In Israel, G-d shows them encouraging signs that the land is indeed plentiful and rich: They find a cluster of grapes so enormous that eight men are needed to carry it (Numbers 13:23). G-d also makes sure the spies encounter heavily fortified Canaanite cities - which in fact is a sign of Canaanite weakness, since anyone who is truly powerful does not have to hide behind big walls. (See Rashi on 13:19.)

Additionally, G-d planned the death of a Canaanite nobleman to coincide with the spies' visit, in order to busy the locals with funeral arrangements and mourning - as a way to divert their attention from the reconnaissance mission! Everything was perfectly orchestrated; nothing could possibly go wrong.

Yet somehow, things do go wrong. After 40 days, the spies come back and recommend against entering the land. They report: "We can't succeed because everything is huge!" - a reference to the gigantic fruits. "We can't succeed because the land devours its inhabitants!" - a reference to the funeral. "And we can't succeed because it's too strong!" - a reference to the heavily fortified walls. (See Numbers 13:31-33.)

The Israelite community accepts the report, and gives up their dream of going into Israel. The consequence? If you don't want to enter the land, says G-d, then you won't enter the land. All Israelites will die out over the next 40 years in the desert, and only their children will enter the land.

Numbers 14:1 tells us the people's reaction to this news: "The people wept that night." That night was Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av. G-d declared: "They cried for no reason; in the future I'll give them good reason to cry."

Hundreds of years later, the destruction of the First Temple was to occur on Tisha B'Av. And 500 years after that, the Second Temple was destroyed on Tisha B'Av as well.


The spies lost their anchor. They got so wrapped up in the pragmatics of conquering the land, that they took G-d out of the equation - and never put Him back in! The original question they'd been assigned to answer - "How to conquer the land" - suddenly became a question of "should we or shouldn't we."

What caused this twist to occur?

G-d's presence was palpable in the desert: a rock provided a steady supply of water, Clouds of Glory kept enemies at bay, and a daily supply of manna fell from heaven. Yet these "open miracles" were to cease upon entry into Israel. Thus, the spies reasoned, G-d's guidance and protection would cease as well.

From this skewed perspective, all the positive signs that G-d had shown them - the fruits, the funeral and the city walls - were turned into negatives. From a purely pragmatic perspective, their conclusion was - not surprisingly - "This is not possible!"

Moses, being the great leader that he was, knew that the spies were susceptible to losing their anchor. So before they departed on their mission, he changed the name of one of the spies from "Hoshea" to "Yehoshua" (Joshua). The name "Yehoshua" means "G-d will save." It also begins with the letters of G-d's Name - Yud and Heh. This was Moses' attempt to keep the spies focused on that crucial transcendent connection.

To some extent, Moses was successful; Joshua was one of two spies who protested the negative report - and was rewarded with entry into the land.


This dynamic can appear in our own lives as well.

Each of us has a "life vision." The Torah teaches that when one's "vision" is driven by a connection with G-d, then the ability to achieve transcends all boundaries. Since G-d can do anything, all success depends only on His will.

Without that connection, one's ability to achieve is defined by mortal limitations. It is logical, therefore, to assume that many goals are not possible. Hence the origin of the popular expression, "I can't do it; it's not possible."

Be it needn't be that way. Living in accordance with the will of G-d gives one the confidence to know that the more you are connected, the greater will be your degree of transcendence. And then, anything is possible.

Our nation has seen that G-d can do anything. When the Israeli armed forces defeated Arab armies in a scant six days, we knew quite clearly that we'd exceeded our mortal limitations.

The incident of the spies took place on Tisha B'Av. Unfortunately, it is a recurring theme in Jewish history: We lose sight of our connection to G-d, forfeit that anchor, and descend into a mode of finger-pointing, arguments, excuses, and ultimately, national suicide.

Time will tell whether we find our anchor, get on track, and succeed in building a national Jewish consciousness that can stand up against the forces which lure us away from our vision and dream.

With the help of G-d, we will succeed.  


Back to my comments:

Zechariah 8:19 promises:  "Thus says the L-rd of hosts, `The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace.'

The fast of the fourth month is Tamuz 17, the beginning of the Three Weeks.
The fast of the fifth month is Tisha B’Av, the day of mourning the destruction of the Temple…twice.
The fast of the seventh month is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
The fast of the tenth month is the remembrance of the day that Nebuchadnetzar, King of Babylon established a siege of Jerusalem, leading to the destruction of the city.

Oh, that day is coming.  L-rd, may it be soon.  But in the meantime, let's consider these days, in "modern" 2003 and look at what faces us on this Tisha B'Av.  The world has taken such a powerful stand against terrorism, yet ignores the acts of terror with which we in Israel are faced daily.  There is now a "cease-fire" agreement made among the terrorist groups, but not with Israel.  Although they have decided to rest for awhile, the world sees it as "peace making" when in reality, a "hudna" as this time is known in Arabic, is only a time for arming and preparing for a greater attack at its end or before.  The so-called "Road map to Peace" is endorsed by the world but only Israel is taking any steps toward its implementation.  The Road Map does not instruct the PA to deal with the terrorists or to make any deal with them; it clearly states that the PA must destroy the terrorist infrastructure, seize their weapons, and reduce incitement.  Not one step in this direction has been made.  Rather, Summer camps all over the Palestinian territory and even among Arab Israeli villages, teach their children that their highest call is to become a martyr as they kill Jews and establish a Palestinian nation that is all of Israel! As we remember the destruction of the Temple and mourn the sad state of affairs of the Temple Mount, Carol and I will join with thousands of Jews from all over Israel to march around the walls of the Old City on this night of remembrance.  We will pause between the Mount of Olives and Mount Moriah and declare once again, "Har HaBayit shelanu!"  "The Temple Mount is ours!"  But no matter how loudly we make this statement and no matter how strong our faith, the reality is that this most holy place is not ours, but is under occupation by those who deny there was ever a Temple at all.

The prophet Zechariah wrote 2500 years ago that the day would come when G-d will make "Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it." Zechariah 12:3. Today, more than any other day of the year, please pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  As we see the nations take their stand against this Holy City,

Today, Wednesday, August 6th is Tisha B'Av this year.  Please be in prayer for the nation and the people of Israel, especially this week.  This week will tell much about the future of the city of Jerusalem and about the future of this nation.




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