|Tisha B'Av -- A "Taboo" Day|
Tisha B'Av (the ninth day of the Jewish calendar month of Av) is considered to be a "taboo" day -- a day that we are fearful that something bad is going to happen. This feeling is justified for history has proven itself to be true.
History of Tisha B'Av
Before the Children of Israel were to enter the Land of Israel, they wanted "proof" that the land was prosperous and safe. As a result, Moses sent a representative ("spy") from each of the 12 tribes to survey the land.
The spies came back after 40 days and gave their interpretation (instead of the straight facts) to the Children of Israel. Numbers 13:27-8: "We arrived at the Land to which you sent us, and indeed it flows with milk and honey and this is its fruit. But the people that dwell in the Land are powerful, the cities are very greatly fortified and we also saw there the offspring of the giant " Numbers 14:1: "The entire assembly raised up and issued its voice; the people wept that night." The spies made it seem that the Children of Israel would be overtaken by giants and never survive. They did not put their full faith in G-d. After all the miracles they witnessed firsthand after the exodus from Egypt, they became fearful and lost their trust in G-d.
God decreed that the Children of Israel would wander in the desert for 40 years -- one year for each day the spies surveyed the land. The generation that left Egypt would not merit entering the Land of Israel, only their offspring would; they would perish in the desert during the course of the 40 years. Because the Children of Israel wept without cause, G-d declared that He would make that day a day for weeping. That day was Tisha B'Av. Taanis 29a: "G-d said, '"You wept in vain. I will establish this date for you as a time of real weeping for all generations.'"
Historical Events on Tisha B'Av
History has shown us that Tisha B'Av is indeed a day for mourning. There are five main tragedies that occurred on this day:
1) G-d told the Children of Israel that the oldest generation would not enter
2) The First Temple built by King Solomon was destroyed by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE.
3) The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
4) The city of Betar was captured and thousands of Jews were killed in 135 CE.
5) The Roman emperor made a pagan temple on the site of the Temple and rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city in 136 CE.
It has also been claimed that the Jewish expulsion from Spain in 1492 began on Tisha B'Av as well as World War I.
Historical Events on 17 B'Tammuz
The mourning is not exclusive to Tisha B'Av, in fact, the mourning period begins three weeks prior on the date of 17 B'Tammuz (17 day of the Jewish calendar month of Tammuz). Since the destruction of the Temple began on 17 B'Tammuz, it marks the beginning of the three-week period. We continue to mourn until Tisha B'Av when the walls of the Temple were completely destroyed. Five tragedies occurred on this day as well:
1) The first tablets containing the 10 commandments were broken by Moses.
2) Two daily sacrifices were ceased during the time of the first Temple.
3) The Romans broke through the outer walls of the second Temple.
4) The Torah was burned.
5) An idol was erected in the Temple.
Tisha B'Av and 17 B'Tammuz are both fast days -- days to spur us to do repentance and remind us of our and our forefathers' actions. It's a way to bring us back to the path of Hashem.
During this three-week period there are several customary prohibitions which include not getting engaged or married. As it gets closer to Tisha B'Av, the restrictions become more stringent. The Nine Days before Tisha B'Av it is customary to refrain from eating meat or drinking wine (except on the Sabbath) since animal sacrifices were made during the Temple times and we no longer have the Temple. On Tisha B'Av itself, we are forbidden to eat, drink, bathe, have marital relations, wear leather shoes, and learn Torah (except for topics pertaining to the day).
Book of Lamentations
The Book of Lamentations, written by the prophet Jeremiah, is read in the evening of Tisha B'Av. Jeremiah's tears were not for himself but for his fellow Jews and the predicament they were in. His tears were also for the presence of G-d being forced into exile. Jeremiah spent years warning the Children of Israel that unless they repented the First Temple would be destroyed. To his dismay, his prophecy came true and a large population of the Jews were dispersed throughout the world.
Jewish history plays itself over and over. G-d is waiting for us to repent so that He can bring about the Third Temple. It is the same tears that tore us away from the Land that will bring us back to G-d and the Land of Israel. We should read the Book of Lamentations with the hope that we will bring ourselves back to the high holy status we were once at and that next year Tisha B'Av will be turned into a day of joy and celebration.