Today is Tisha B’Av, which I only realised was coming up last week. While I observe some other Jewish holidays and remembrance days in a significant way, Tisha B’Av is one that has always passed me by. Perhaps because my family isn’t particularly observant or the Jewish school I went to for part of my schooling was not really religious at all, for whatever reason, Tisha B’Av has never really been an important date on my calendar. I don’t know that I think that’s a problem. But at this point in my life I’m trying to learn more about Judaism, so I’ve read a little bit about it. Here’s an explanation of the date, taken from Tablet magazine (where there’s more information):
“WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
We Jews should’ve known this day was no good when, on it, Moses’s spies came from the Promised Land with reports of a terrible place littered with walled fortresses and roamed by angry giants. Moses ordered his doubting emissaries killed, but the curse of Tisha B’av lived on: the First Temple was destroyed on this day in 586 BCE. The Second Temple suffered the same fate exactly 656 years later, in 70 CE. Sixty-five years after that, in 135 CE, the Bar Kokhba revolt failed, its leader was killed, and its flagship city, Betar, was destroyed. Then, one year later, Jerusalem itself was burned, the Temple area plowed, and the fate of the Jews sealed for millennia. As if further insult was needed, in 1492, King Ferdinand of Spain signed the Alhambra Decree, setting Tisha B’Av as the deadline for all of Spain’s Jews to leave for good.
Coming at the end of the Three Weeks of mourning, which began with the 17th of Tammuz, Tisha B’Av signifies the conclusion of the period known as Bein Hameitzarim, or between the straits, a time of reflection and abstinence from pleasure.”
So I’m not doing anything in particular to observe Tisha B’Av this year, maybe next year I’ll begin. I am however teaching the first classes for the semester in Genocide and Holocaust Studies, so I suppose, at the very least, I will spend the afternoon reflecting on one period of destruction in Jewish history (that sounds a bit trite, which was not what I meant. hopefully you have a sense of what I’m trying to say).