Tisha B'Av

9th Av 5763 — 7th August 2003

Fasting. No joy of food or drink, nor in studies, no joyful song or merry melody. No wedding, nor any other celebration. No joyous activity of any kind. Fasting. Remembrance and mourning. Repentance. Because it was the sins of earlier generations that caused the dreadful events no Jew will ever forget.

The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, that ripped the heart out of Judaism, not only once, but twice; in 586 BC by Nebuchadnezzar, and in AD 70 by Titus Flavius.

In AD 135, the fall of Bethar and the death of Bar Kochba, who most thought to be the Messiah. It was the last ever Jewish revolt, for it caused the final, complete destruction of Israel by the Romans.

The Diaspora recovered after hundreds of years, and by the Middle Ages, Spain was a centre of culture, of learning and the arts, often compared to the splendour of the age of Solomon. The Christian Reconquista initially had no problems with that, but then the "conversions" started. Any Jew wanting to keep himself and his family alive, had to become a "Christian", to live accordingly ever after. And so they did. Or did they?

Strangely enough, the mighty Spanish church began doubting its own success and the power of the rites "administered" to the new faithful. So those became known as marranos (i.e. "pigs"), and accused of "Judaizing", secretly carrying on a Jewish life and raising their children in the Jewish faith.

To check that, the Spanish Inquisition was installed. Independent from (and later only very reluctantly approved by) Rome, it was much more cruel than the Roman Inquisition. Jews were captured, tortured, murdered, often burned in mass autos-da-fé. The head of all that terror, a name almost synonymous with terror even today, was Torquemada, a Dominican monk, who, historians say, came from a recently converted Jewish family.

Then, Jewish children were forcibly taken away from their families, to be raised by trusted Christians. And in 1492, the final bell rang for the Spanish Jews. An edict was signed, that within a few months, every Jew had to leave Spain once and for all, not allowed to take anything valuable with him. Hundreds of thousands of people who were proud to be Spanish, in fact saw themselves more as Spaniards than as Jews, had to leave the only home they ever knew. The flower of medieval Jewry was uprooted, and it happened on 9th Av.

But the root of all those tragedies was seen by the Rabbis in one event that happened much earlier. In Numbers, chapters 13 and 14, we read how the people of Israel finally reach the promised land and send scouts into it first. The result: the scouts report very unfavourably about the land, persuading the people that it is impossible for them to get into it. They openly deny God's promise. Of course, God is angered by that, and threatens to destroy them all.

But two of the scouts do not join in the treacherous talk of the others. Instead, they mourn and repent for what the others did. This, and Moses interceding on behalf of the people, secured their continued existence as a people. And this, too, is one reason for the existence of Tisha B'Av.

By: Martin Liebig
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August 2003: Contents | Praise the Lord! | Successful preacher | God's character | Tisha B'Av
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Romesh Modayil [romeshmodayil@yahoo.com], Andrew Bossom [rewboss@hotmail.com], Martin Liebig
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