The Fast of the Fifth Month – Tishah B’Av*

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Today is the ninth day of the month of Av – Tisha B’Av. The worst date in the Jewish collective thought throughout our history, as some of the most horrific events happened on that day (well, at least according to tradition they happened on this day, though there is no real way of proving it). On this day:

∴  Circa 1312 BC: God declared that the Israelites will wonder in the desert for 40 years, because they chose to believe the report of the 10 spies, and not His promises

∴  586 BC: The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. The book of Lamentation describes how Jerusalem was turned from a thing of beauty into a desolate widow.

∴  70 AD: The Second Temple was destroyed by Titus the Roman

∴  135 AD: The city of Beitar was conquered by the Romans, representing the end of the Bar Kochva revolt; Jerusalem was plowed to the ground, to symbolize its total destruction

∴  1290 AD: Edward, King of England, ordered the killing of many Jews in his kingdom and expelled all the others

∴  1492 AD: The infamous deportation of the Spanish Jews

∴  1942: A mass deportation of the Jews of Warsaw to the Treblinka extermination camp

∴  2005: The coerced evacuation of Gush Katif, former group of Jewish settlements which bordered the southwestern edge of Gaza

Normally, Orthodox Jews flood today and tomorrow their local synagogues and the Western Wall. They sit on the floor, read Lamentations and fast – this is the fast of the 5th month which Zechariah (8:19) speaks of. However, due to the Corona limitations, they will not do it this year. Nevertheless, we can still pray that as they reflect on all that our nation had suffered over the years, may God stir within them a true desire to know Him.

Boys from Golani Brigade at the Kotel on Tish B'Av

Soldiers from the Golani Brigade
fasting and praying at the Western Wall 

I learned something really interesting about this fast. Apparently, at the end of the fast, orthodox women (mostly Sephardic Jews) return from synagogue, and start cleaning their homes diligently, polishing it, even painting the walls afresh. Why? Because in the face of destruction, the nation is always looking for some hope. And these women hope for the “Coming of the Messiah,” they say. They clean their homes in preparation for Him, in case He will show up. There is even a Talmudic tradition (tractate Berachot) that speaks about the Messiah being born on that day.

Multitudes of Jews mourn the widowhood of our nation (though they don’t use this term to describe the desolation and destruction we have suffered, Israel is a widow, as described by Lam. 1:1 and Isa. 54:4), and end it with a ray of hope for the coming of Messiah, not realizing He is already in our midst.

They mourn, but I am not sure they fully connect it to the reason that brought that punishment upon us. And I am not sure if they truly seek His Faces. But I pray that something ancient will stir deep down in our national dull spirit, and wake it up. That we will desire to see His Jewish Faces, until this fast of the ninth of Av indeed will turn into joy and gladness.

If Israel is on your heart, and you are looking to enrich your prayers on her behalf, you are welcome to join us as we pray:

∴  That the widow will desire to see her Husband.

∴  That our nation will pursue righteousness, and worship Him alone. The disasters that came upon us were not a coincidence. God made it very clear that this will happen if we neglect to act justly and righteously, and worship others besides Him. We turned a deaf ear, so He turned His Faces and His protective Hand away from us.

∴  That the physical restoration of the widow Israel will lead to her spiritual restoration, that we will realize we do have a Husband, and that we can lean on Him for provision and safety.

∴  That the nation will forget the shame of our youth and not remember the reproach of our widowhood anymore, but call on the name of our Husband and Maker – the Lord of Hosts, her Redeemer (Isa. 54: 4-8).

* Much of this post was originally published on August 2016, with a few additions.