Tisha B’Av by Rabbi Patrick Beaulier

 

 

Tonight starts the fast of Tisha B’Av, the ninth of Av.

What does that mean? There are some things we are told not to do:

Prohibitions:
1. No eating or drinking
2. No washing or bathing
3. No application of creams or oils
4. No wearing of leather shoes
5. No marital relations
6. No Torah study

Why Tisha B’Av?

The Talmud tells us that there are five things that happened to the Jews on Tisha B’Av:

1. The twelve spies sent by Moses to observe the land of Canaan returned from their mission. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, brought a positive report, while the others spoke disparagingly about the land. The majority report caused the Children of Israel to cry, panic and despair of ever entering the “Promised Land”. For this, they were punished by G-d that their generation would not enter the land. Because of the Israelites’ lack of faith, G-d decreed that for all generations this date would become one of crying and misfortune for their descendants, the Jewish people. (See Numbers Ch. 13–14)

2. The First Temple built by King Solomon and the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE and the Judeans were sent into the Babylonian exile.

3. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, scattering the people of Judea and commencing the Jewish exile from the Holy Land. According to the Talmud in tractate Ta’anit, the destruction of the Second Temple began on the Ninth of Av and the Temple continued to burn throughout the Tenth of Av.

4. The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba’s revolt and destroyed the city of Betar, killing over 100,000 Jews, in 132 CE.

5. Following the Roman siege of Jerusalem, Roman commander Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Temple and the surrounding area, in 133 CE.

What can we learn from this now? How can we bring this into our lives today?

Well, we see that as a people we have a responsibility to mourn our collective losses. National tragedies tie a people together, just as national celebrations can. So mourning together as a people is an important part of being a Jew. Not only this, but we are told that Moshiach will be born on Tisha B’Av. The pain and mourning are akin to birth pangs.

If we look more closely at the first occurrence, the spies who were scared, the Israelites cried for no reason. G-d told them they would invade and be victorious, but they despaired of even trying. Because of this, because they cried empty tears, G-d told them that this day would be forever a day of mourning. It’s basically a parent saying, “Why are you crying over nothing! You’ve wasted all this time and energy crying over nothing, now you’ll really have something to cry about.”

The real sin of the Israelites is that they didn’t believe in themselves. They saw the inhabitants of Canaan and were scared, even after G-d told them not to worry. They didn’t have faith that they could do what G-d said they could. So this year let’s mourn for what we could have done, and resolve to do what we can. Recognize that Judaism doesn’t shy away from pain, it is a reality of life that needs to be acknowledged, but we have to allow our pain to give birth to a better world.


Rabbi Patrick Beaulier is a religious, but non-traditional, spiritual seeker and facilitator. Here you will find a little about him, his approach to Judaism, speaking engagements and services.

He is the rabbi for Bonay Kodesh, an independent (Reform/Reconstructionist in practice) Jewish community born south of the James River but serving all of Richmond, VA. He is a member of the Richmond Rabbinical Association.

He was ordained by RSI, a progressive rabbinical program in Manhattan, founded by the late Rabbi Joseph Gelberman. Additionally, he is a Prepare Enrich certified premarital and relationship coach as well as a Psychological First Aid provider, and has recently completed a certificate in Spirituality, Health and Healing through Clayton State University as well as mandated reporter training in Georgia and Virginia.

He has had the pleasure of writing/editing several books including Ahavah Rabbah, PunkTorah: The First Anthology and the New Kosher Vegan Cookbook, as well as countless articles for blogs such as PunkTorah and My Jewish Learning.

He has been featured in three books, The New Reform Judaism: Challenges and Reflections, Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal, Oy Oy Oy Gevalt!: Jews and Punk, as well as the Times of Israel, the Atlanta Jewish Times, and several other Jewish newspapers, magazines and blogs.

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