Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, is a day that means so much more than just remembering the destruction of the temples; it is a day of constant remembrance, a day of remembering hate and persecution throughout the history of the Jewish people.
The main answer as to why Jews fast for 25 hours (from sunset the night before) on Tisha B’Av is that it’s the day that, according to tradition both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed by the Babylonians and Romans respectively. The destruction of the First Temple resulted in the exile to Babylon, and the destruction of the Second let to Jews being scattered in exile once again. The Rabbis commented that the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple was the spread of “senseless hatred”, and the gravity of the consequences of this hatred leaves a lesson that is still relevant today.
Yet this does not tell the full story – the day is more complex than that. Throughout Jewish history there are a timeline of events that have taken place on Tisha B’Av that have caused damage. According to tradition the killing of Rabbi Akiva along with his students, the beginning of the Crusades and pogroms in medieval Europe, the expulsion of Jews from numerous European countries, and the approval for the Final Solution in Nazi Germany all occurred on or around Tisha B’Av.
The day is not tied to a single event, nor even a chain of events – it’s a feeling of pain, a time to think about the perils of the past.
Remembrance in isolation isn’t enough. Within the mourning we should be able to find hope for the future that things may be different. Each of the events listed above stems from opposing beliefs and a fear of the other, where one group has taken offence to another and resorted to violence immediately. Through better communication and understanding one another, the motivation for fear and violence dissipates. Where effective dialogue can be established between different groups, conflicts and attacks become less common.
To me, Tisha B’Av is about thinking this way, remembering and commemorating the horrific events of the past, but equally considering what we can do now and in the future to avoid a repetition of this history. It is only through dialogue between differing groups – faiths, ethnicities, cultures – that we are able to break the cycle of fear and avoid the senseless hatred on the past. It is with this in mind that on Tisha B’Av I will be reflecting on Jewish history and considering what I can do to help build a better, shared future.
Asher Breuer-Weil, Intern