20 September 2015 - 7 Tishri 5776 - ז' תשרי ה' אלפים תשע"ו
Tisha B'Av a historical day of calamities Print E-mail

It is on the 9th day of Av that we read the book of Lamentations:
How doth the city sit solitary / That was full of people! / How is she become as a widow!

The authorship of the book of Lamentations, one of the five megillot, is credited to the prophet Jeremiah who warned the people of the destruction of the Temple.  The book, in five dirges, details the destruction of Jerusalem and its aftermath in graphic detail as it is told from a survivors perspective.   

The relevance of this book and Tisha B’Av, does not end nor does it begin with the destruction of the First Temple.  The 9th of Av is associated with a number of tragedies spanning the year 2448 to the modern day.

The day is marked as a day of catastrophe, in the Midrash, following the incident involving spies sent to the Land of Israel. After spies reports back on the seemingly impossibility of the Israelites success, the people lose faith and cry out in despair.  G-d then declares, “You wept without cause, I will therefore make this day an eternal day of mourning for you.”

The Destruction of the First Temple, by the Babylonians, follows on the 9th of Av in 3340. This attack, by Nebuchadnezzar, resulted in the death of about 100,000 and the exile of many Jews from the land.

In 3830, again on the 9th of Av, the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Under this attack led by Titus, 2,500,000 Jews perished and over 1,000,000 were driven into exile. The words of Lamentations again rang true and echoed the horror of the destruction that Jeremiah recorded.   

The Bar Kochba revolt, in 3892, was similarly crushed on this day marked for eternal mourning.  

The loss and destruction suffered as a result of the First and Second Temples, has become a symbol so powerful, that historically many other events have been attributed to this day and added to the list of calamities.

The agony suffered by Jews, as a people, as a result of these post-biblical events was so great that the spiritual connection to the 9th of Av and the dirges of Lamentations is almost natural. Tisha B’Av, while still commemorating the destruction of the First Temple, has come to represent much more of our history as a people.

In 4855 the First Crusade began, under Pope Urban II, and completely destroyed entire Jewish communities in its path. In 5050, the expulsion of Jews from England was ordered.  In 5252, the Spanish Inquisition resulted in the expulsion and death of the Jews living under the Spanish crown.

5674 marked the beginning of the First World War. Hundreds of pogroms followed in its wake and the stage was set for the Second World War to follow. In 5702 the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka concentration camp commenced and the mass extermination of the six million began.  

The list of calamities associated with this day unfortunately does not end with the Shoah. There have been many more events, occurring around this time of year, that have likewise been linked to this marked day in the month of Av.  

Jerusalem remembereth / In the days of her affliction and of her anguish / All her treasures that she had / From the days of old.

(List of historical events adapted from Ohr.edu website,  “History of Events on Tisha B’Av, by Rabbi Mordechai Becher) 

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