Tisha B’av is a day of sadness in the Jewish calendar for Jews all around the world. It’s a date of several anniversaries marking events that were catastrophes for the Jews. This date reminds them of oppression and violence that caused enormous suffering for them as a people.
While celebrating is not really the right word for this anniversary, it’s more a remembrance and a time to not only reflect on what has passed but where they are now. There has been so much sorrow in Jewish history that many people think they should simply stop dwelling on the past. However, to the Jewish mind, after so many tyrants and people have tried to wipe them out, some coming close to succeeding, their attitude is if someone says they want to kill them, they believe them. The other thing Jewish people say often, particularly with the Holocaust in mind is, ”Never Again!”
That means, in order to prevent such atrocities from happening again, you have to never forget that they’ve happened before. That’s why they mark their calendars and remember not only the good things and the victories they’ve experienced, but also the bad things and the catastrophes they’ve managed to survive.
Tisha B’av means the 9th day of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar. This date has several very sad events attached to it.
This history of this date has become an anniversary of great sorrow and remembrance for the Jewish people as a collective whole. They’re not dealing with one attempt to annihilate them, they’re dealing with repeated and multiple attempts, and while they’re not all associated with this particular date, this date in particular is a very serious one, and is loaded with a huge number of sorrows.
To remember the horrors of this particular date and honour the memories of their fallen forbears and the sufferings of their people, Jews all around the world, and most especially in Israel, close restaurants and entertainment venues because they consider this date too serious and too melancholy to laugh, joke or greet other people in a jovial manner. Tisha B’av is as serious as the Day of Atonement, (Yom Kippur) is, and that Feast of the Lord is known as the most solemn day of the entire Jewish calendar.
There are some people who describe the 9th of Av as being their equivalent of 9/11 for the American people but for the Jewish people, it was not only events on a much grander scale, but the aftermath of what the people endured was vastly worse than what happened on 9/11. Unlike 9/11, an event that is restricted to a single event in one specific year, the sorrows of Tisha B’av span millennia.
The American people weren’t led wholesale into captivity and slavery to other parts of the world and kept there for several thousand years and kept in positions of poverty, subservience and frequent and excessive persecution. The Jews were.
There is a tradition among some – although I cannot confirm this – that the 9th of Av is also the day God refused to allow the old generation of Israelites into the Promised Land because of their unbelief and grumbling against Joshua and Caleb when they returned from scouting out the land.
This tradition comes from Eicah Rabba Petichta 33, a Midrash (rabbinic literature that is basically a commentary by rabbis of old of the Torah). This quote is by R Johanan and he wrote, ‘That night was the ninth of Av. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them: “You have wept without cause, therefore I will set [this day] aside for a weeping throughout the generations to come”’.
This midrash of course is not inspired, God breathed Scripture so we can’t hold this to be absolute truth, but it’s very interesting that in rabbinic thought going back centuries, the rejection of that Jewish generation from the Promised Land was seen as the beginning of a historic cycle of sorrow, mourning and tragic loss through future generations of the Jewish people and nation on the 9th of Av.
Mourning during the month of Av goes back millennia and is even mentioned in the book of Zechariah. By that stage the first Temple had already been destroyed and the tradition of mourning and weeping about it on Tisha B’av had already been established. A man came to the prophet to ask if he should continue mourning in the 5th month (Av) as he’d already been doing for years and through Zechariah, God responded by saying that He wanted his people to dispense justice, practice kindness and compassion to others. If you look into why the Temple was originally destroyed, it was because the people had become very wicked, rejecting God’s ways, yes, they embraced false pagan religions but they also forgot to care for others, to be kind and compassionate to those who needed it and God brought judgment upon them. (Zech 7:3-10)
This is all great history but what does it mean for us as believers? There has to be some take home value for us otherwise all we’ve done is gain information.
God called the Jewish people to be His own special possession. They were called to be different in various ways; in how they dressed, in how they ate, with a physical sign of a covenant with God which was circumcision – in their flesh – in how they lived their daily lives; with a day of Sabbath rest for their benefit and to devote themselves to God with their whole heart; in dealing with the weak, poor, and distressed; with laws that ensured provision and compassion for the less fortunate; in purity and morality; in the worship of One God and the absolute rejection of all others. There were many distinct differences that the Jewish people were required to live by to make them distinct from the rest of the nations. All these behaviours were centred through the Temple.
We who know and believe in Jesus are also called to be distinctly different and separate from the world while living and navigating our way through it. As His people, grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel He has identified us collectively as His Temple; living stones. What is the Temple for? It’s the place where God said His presence would dwell and where He would connect with His people. That’s what we are.
Unlike the previous physical, man-made Temples that were destroyed that to this day, still causes incredibly grief and sorrow within the nation of Jewish people around the world, this human Temple will not be destroyed.
Jesus is our Holy of Holies and through Him we have direct access to God the Father.
1 Peter 2:5-6 & 9- , ‘You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”’…’But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.’
The Jewish people have known much heartache, sorrow and loss, much of it has taken place on Tisha B’av, 9th of Av. Losing their Temple twice, was a monumental blow to them because the connection and interaction with God occurred through the Temple sacrifice and service. Without it, their religion has been hampered and they’ve had to adapt it so it’s become primarily about works.
But through Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, He makes us living stones to build up a spiritual Temple, made up of His children and in that way, spiritual sacrifices by way of His children being a kingdom of priests before Him, cannot ever be destroyed.
But in all this, these distinct differences that set the Jews apart, has made them a target for derision, persecution and hatred. We need to come to understand that we can expect the same things from the world too.
Pray for the Jewish people, particularly at this time because they’re remembering so much loss and sorrow that has fallen on their nation over their history, but their own Messiah is calling them to come to Him and He’ll make them living stones in His Temple so they can be reconnected with their God. As Gentiles, we’re supposed to love the, pray for them and do good for them, to provoke them to jealousy to know their Messiah. Unfortunately, church history shows we’ve done the opposite.
Romans 11:13-14, Paul said ‘I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I’m an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.’
One day the Jewish people will collectively be saved, they’ll be restored to their God through their Messiah and they’ll no longer be tied to sorrow, loss and hatred by the rest of the world. One day, we’ll all stand before the Lord, redeemed and all our tears and sorrows will be wiped away. (Rev 21:4)