Tisha B’Av, which translates as the ninth of Av (this year it falls on Aug 8-9), ends a three-week period of semi-mourning which starts with the Fast of Tammuz. The ninth of Av, however, is the peak of this mourning period, where tradition prevents our people from shaving, eating, and entertainment. The reason for this distress is remembrance of events that have happened in the lives of the Jewish people. The rabbis teach that all these things happened on the ninth of Av:
· Sin of the spies which caused the Lord to decree that the people of Israel would not be permitted to enter the land.
· Destruction of the First Temple (586 BC)
· Destruction of the Second Temple (70 AD)
· Fall of Betar, the last fortress to hold out against the Romans during the Bar Kochba revolt in the year 135 AD. This sealed the fate of the Jewish people and beginning the exile from Judea
· One year after the fall of Betar, the Temple area was razed and plowed under by the Romans
· In 1492, King Ferdinand of Spain issued the expulsion decree, setting Tisha B’Av as the final date by which not a single Jew would be allowed to walk on Spanish soil.
· World War I – which began the downward slide to the Holocaust.
Its Meaning, Today and Tomorrow
Though most Jewish people are secularized and perhaps therefore unaware of Tisha B’Av, the Orthodox Jewish community takes it quite seriously. Thus if your Jewish friends and acquaintances are observing this day, treat them as one in mourning, and do not invite them to go out to eat, the movies or any other enjoyable events. In fact, though they may love you, do not expect them to greet you happily, which is not permitted on this day. They will be quite reserved, solemn and sad on this day.
The rabbis have identified this day with the fast of the fifth month (Av) as noted in Zechariah 7:5. This fast of the fifth month probably developed as a response to the Babylonian exile.
Zechariah goes on to say, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, … the fast of the fifth … will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah…” (Zechariah 8:19). These “fasts becoming feasts” are traditionally understood as occurring in the messianic age, and then our sorrows will be turned to joy. In Messiah Yeshua we have certainly experienced the truth of the Lord’s grace transforming our sadness to gladness.
For those of us that have received Messiah’s forgiveness and fullness and can “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), we are still responsible to care about those who are hurting and have compassion and even empathy in their distress.
Should Messianic believers observe Tisha B’Av today? To a large degree this depends on one's community. If one's witness to our people identifies with those who mourn, the Bible states that we should “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). If your congregation is located in a particularly observant Jewish community, it is most appropriate to respectfully have a day of prayer for Israel and the Jewish people, or at very least not plan a celebration on that day.
In all things let us love as we have been loved and “comfort others with the very comfort we have received,” that in all events and on all days Messiah Yeshua may be glorified and His grace proven to be sufficient for all:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)