Tisha B’Av is upon us again, so I’m reposting last year’s summary of the day along with some observations that struck me this year.
It’s a solemn occasion, a time to remember the destruction of the two Temples as well as numerous other calamities that have befallen the Jews on this day since. For example (with thanks in part to KHouse for the list):
- 135 CE – The Bar Koshba revolt is squelched with the fall of Bethar, the last Jewish stronghold
- 136 CE – Emperor Hadrian establishes a temple of Zeus and the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of Jerusalem
- 1095 AD – The declaration of the Crusades by Pope Urban II, which resulted in many Jews being attacked by Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land
- 1242 AD – The burning of the Talmud
- 1290 AD – The signing of the edict by King Edward I expelling the Jews from England
- 1492 AD – Ferdinand and Isabella issued a royal decree that all Jews must leave the Spanish territories by August 3rd (9th of Av on the Hebrew calendar)
- 1914 AD – The start of the First World War
- 1942 AD – The first killings at the Treblinka extermination camp in Poland
- 1994 AD – And the AMIA bombing by Arab terrorists in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 86 and wounded more than 120
It is also tradition that it was on the 9th of Av that ten of the twelve spies that Israel sent into Canaan came back with a bad report, causing Israel to lose faith and wander the wilderness for 40 years (cf. Num. 13). I also think it likely that Moses removed the Tent of Meeting from the camp on Tisha b’Av, as we explain in our article, The Feasts and the Exodus.
The hour before sundown is typically occupied by a mourning meal: A hard-boiled egg dipped in ashes, bread, and water. Lentils are also eaten by some, with the round shape of the lentils and the round shape of egg symbolizing the cycle of suffering in life. It is customary to fast on this day as on Yom Kippur, which means no food, water, washing, leather, or other luxuries are to be partaken of. (Arutz Sheva has a good article on fasting safely here.) During the fast, it is traditional to read from the book of Lamentations, which of course was written by the prophet Jeremiah after the destruction of the First Temple.
Many of my Messianic brethren are suspicious of any tradition that they cannot find in the Scriptures. However, the fast of Tisha B’Av is specifically referenced in Zec. 7:4-7:
Then the word of the LORD of Hosts came to me, saying, “Speak to all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month for these seventy years, did you at all fast to me, really to me? When you eat, and when you drink, don’t you eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? Aren’t these the words which the LORD proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and its cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?’”
This passage seems at first glance to be critical of Tisha B’Av, but in actuality it is critical of those who mourn wrongly, mourning for their own circumstances rather than for their sins against the Holy One that resulted in such terrible punishment coming on our people. Therefore, for those who fast today, let us fast with right intention and pure hearts, looking forward to the fulfillment of the promise that, “The fasts of the fourth fifth, seventh, and tenth months shall be for the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace” (Zec. 8:19).
Still, as I reread the above passage this last Shabbat, I felt the Spirit speaking to me and telling me to also read Isaiah 58 along with it:
Is such the fast that I have chosen? the day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Isn’t this the fast that I have chosen: to release the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Isn’t it to distribute your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor who are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you not hide yourself from your own flesh? (vv. 5-7)
Just a few weeks ago, I was listening to the Tim and Mike podcast and one of them (I forget which) was relating how he was struggling with finding a job and having to really rely on the Lord. He went on to share how he and his girlfriend had spent an evening before a date passing out peanut butter sandwhiches to the homeless (which they chose because the sandwhiches would keep better than, say, ham and cheese) and how that small bit of ministry had helped to minister to him. I shared the story with my wife and we agreed that sometime soon we would go out and do the same.
As I read the above passages, I realized that Hashem was calling me to turn “soon” into “now.” So with our daughter and my parents and possibly a few friends, we’re going out tomorrow night to “celebrate” Tisha B’Av by distributing some of our bread (with PB&J) to the hungry.
I’m not saying this to brag, but in the hopes that it might inspire a few of my fellow Messianics to do the same. Imagine being given the chance to fulfill a prophecy in the lives of others: “Thus says the LORD of Hosts: “The fasts of the fourth fifth, seventh, and tenth months shall be for the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.” (Zec. 8:19)
For a hungry man, receiving food with a blessing from a stranger is a time of joy and gladness, a cheerful feast. And it doesn’t take a huge organization with a million-dollar budget. It just takes ten dollars in food supplies, some sandwhich bags, and perhaps some bottled water–and a few willing hearts.