Tisha B’Av is a significant day on the Jewish calendar observed with solemnity and mourning. It commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, both of which occurred on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. Tisha B’Av is a day of collective sorrow and reflection for the Jewish people.
Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning and fasting. Jewish people traditionally refrain from eating or drinking, similar to the observance of Yom Kippur. Unlike Yom Kippur though, which is a day of joy when sins can be washed away, Tisha B’Av is only marked by sorrow. This fast begins at sundown on the eve of Tisha B’Av and concludes at nightfall the following day, which in 2023 will be Wednesday, July 26, until the evening of July 27. It is a day marked by sadness, as the community remembers the loss of the holy sanctuary in Jerusalem.
On this day, Jews refrain from various activities that symbolize joy and pleasure. These practices serve as a reminder of the losses and tragedies that have befallen the Jewish community throughout history. It is customary to fast from sunset to nightfall, abstain from bathing, and refrain from wearing leather, as well as other symbols of wealth or leisure. Even until mi-day people sit in low chairs or on the floor only. These customs help create an atmosphere of mourning and demonstrate our commitment to remember the tragedies of the past.
Tisha B’Av is a time for Jews to reflect on the profound significance of the Temples’ destructions. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, while the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. These devastating events resulted in the dispersion of the Jewish people and marked the beginning of a long period of exile and suffering.
The observance of Tisha B’Av also serves as an opportunity for Jews to contemplate the broader historical tragedies that have afflicted our people. Throughout the centuries, countless calamities, such as the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Holocaust, have befallen the Jewish community on or around this fateful date.
Jews refrain from engaging in activities that bring joy, such as studying Torah outside for the scenes of tragedy, getting married, or listening to music. Since it is not a biblical holiday, it is allowed to do otherwise prohibited activities so some people watch sad documentaries about the tragic moments in Jewish history. Synagogues read the Book of Lamentations (Eicha), which describes the destruction of Jerusalem and the suffering of the Jewish people. People will also hear Kinot, which are sad or graphic poetry about destruction and exile, primarily to do with the Temples, but other periods such as Roman persecution, the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms and the Holocaust.
On Tisha B’Av, we yearn for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and the restoration of a world free from suffering and injustice. We mourn the loss of our ability to conduct all mitzvot in a unified Jewish society free from exile, yearning for the day when we can return as a whole nation. The day provides an occasion to reflect on our collective responsibility to bring healing and repair to our fractured world. Since it is recognized that Moshiach will be born on Tisha B’Av, some say he will even reveal himself then too, it will one day become a day of celebration.
May we find solace in our shared grief on Tisha B’Av and strive to bring about a future filled with peace, redemption, and the rebuilding of what has been lost.