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The Fast of Av – A Time of Meeting

By Rabbi Alan Garber

The Fast of Av – the day of Jewish national mourning starts at sunset this Saturday evening just before Shabbat ends (London 8.33pm).  We commemorate some of the darkest events in our history and express our feelings of genuine loss at the destruction of our Temple in Jerusalem.

It is somewhat strange that Tisha B’Av is called a moed.  This is the same Hebrew term used to describe the Jewish festive days of Pesach, Shavuot and Succot.  Moed literally means a meeting.  In what way can we understand that the sad day of Tisha B’Av is a time of meeting?

The following famous parable gives us an insight;

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with G-d. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.  In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.  This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to G-d,

“You promised me G-d, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

G-d replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

The name of the month “Av” means “father”.  At the time of our deepest distress and pain our Father is closest to us.  Many of us may have experienced or know of people that at a time of personal loss, there is often a spiritual re-awakening.  It is a time of contemplation and a time when we come to realise that only our Father can help us.

The Fast of Av is indeed a day of meeting, of coming closer to Hashem, through rebuilding our connection to our Father.  This Shabbat – “Chazon” – the Shabbat of Vision, we visualise the positive days that lay ahead of us, when our connection to Hashem is fully restored with the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.  May these days come very speedily!

Events that occurred on 9th of Av:

  • The Jewish people accepted the slanderous report of the 10 Spies, and the decree was issued forbidding them from entering the Land of Israel. (1312 BCE)
  • The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and millions more exiled. (586 BCE)
  • The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus. Some two million Jews died, and another one million were exiled. (70 CE)
  • The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. The city of Betar — the Jews’ last stand against the Romans — was captured and liquidated. Over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered. (135 CE)
  • The Temple area and its surroundings were ploughed over by the Roman general Turnus Rufus. Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan city — renamed Aelia Capitolina — and access was forbidden to Jews.
  • The Spanish Inquisition culminated with the expulsion of Jews from Spain on 9th of Av in 1492.
  • World War One broke out on the eve of 9th of Av in 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia. German resentment from the war set the stage for the Holocaust.
  • On the eve of 9th of Av 1942, the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, on route to Treblinka.

 

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