What Does Tisha B’av Represent?

So, what is it all about, the three weeks of Mourning, the higher nine days of mourning, all are leading to the 9th day of the month of Av or in Hebrew Tisha Be’Av.

What is Tisha Be’Av? What do we celebrate/mourn? Why do we do it?

Let’s answer these questions in a manner that is clear to all.

Tisha be-Av, also spelled Tisha b’Av, in English Ninth of Av, in Judaism, a traditional day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples. According to the Talmud, other disastrous events such as the following occurred on Av 9: the decree that the Jews would wander 40 years in the wilderness; the fall of Betar in 135 CE, ending the second Jewish revolt against Rome led by Bar-Kochba (Shimon Bar Kozibah); and the establishment of a pagan temple in the year 136 in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which prohibited Jews from entering. The Jews expulsion from Spain in 1492 is also traditionally believed to have occurred on that date.

The Custom is that a 25 – hour fast is observed from sunset to sunset, except by Reform Jews. The liturgy of the day, performed by candlelight in a gloomy atmosphere usually at the synagogue, and includes reciting a series of elegiac poems, known as Kinnot *1, after the evening and morning prayers.

These Kinnot – poems mourn the destruction of both the First and Second Temple in Jerusalem as well as other tragedies in Jewish history, including the Crusades, and the Expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, which is believed to be started on the 9th of Av, and the Holocaust. The Kinnot are recited on the night of Tisha B’Av after reciting the Book of Lamentations, which was also called “Kinnot” in the Talmudic era before it assumed its more familiar name of the scroll of “Eichah” (Megilat Eicha).

This year Tisha B’Av will be observed from sundown Saturday, August 6th till Sundown Sunday August 7th, and Jewish people worldwide will be fasting (refrain from eating or drinking of any kind) for 25 hours from sundown to sundown.

Many Jewish people visit their loved ones in the cemetery on this day. Tisha be-Av marks the end of a period of mourning which is mentioned in one of our previous called the Three Weeks of Mourning and lasts till the 10th of Av.

In Fact we observe Tisha B’Av in three main ways:

  • Fasting (refraining from food or drink)
  • Visiting loved ones who have passed
  • Attending synagogue to hear the Book of Lamentations
  • Kinnot – Kinnot (Hebrew: קינות; also kinnos, kinoth, qinot, qinoth; singular kinah, qinah or kinnah) are Hebrew dirges (sad poems) or elegies. The term is used to refer both to dirges in the Hebrew Bible, and also to later poems which are traditionally recited by Jews on Tisha B’Av. (Wikipedia)

In Israel, many people gather at the Western Wall, the ruins of the Second Temple.

One might notice that Tisha B’av shares similar prohibitions with Yom Kippur since it is the only other day in Judaism Tradition and Religion habits when there is a 25-hour fast. However, Tisha B’av is a day of mourning whereas Yom Kippur is a mandated Holiday coming from the Torah.

One of the main ideas to focus on with Tisha B’av is that evil exists and always existed in the world, whether we want to admit and acknowledge it or not. We just need to ask the question of How? we as individuals, families, groups, Synagogues, Churches, or any other social group that exists, can make the world a kinder, more welcoming place for everyone?

What can you who read this article now, do? either alone or with your family, to give back to the world around you in a meaningful and positive way.

One small change will have a ripple effect and will create a lot of good in the world that needs it now more than ever.

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” (JFK) is true now more than ever to every one of us.