Jewish tradition teaches that on Tisha B’Av (the Ninth day of the month of Av) — which begins tonight — five national calamities occurred:
- During the time of Moses, Jews in the desert accepted the slanderous report of the ten spies, and the decree was issued by God forbidding them from entering the Land of Israel. (1312 BCE — traditional Jewish dating)
- 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. Traditional sourcest teach that 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 plowed under by the Roman general Terentius Rufus. Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan city — renamed Aelia Capitolina — and access was forbidden to Jews, a status that more or less remained the case under the subsequent Muslim domination of the city’s holiest precincts until 1967.
Other grave misfortunes in Jewish history occurred on the Ninth of Av, including:
- The Spanish Inquisition culminated with the expulsion of Jews from Spain on Tisha B’Av in 1492.
- World War One broke out on the eve of Tisha B’Av in 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia. German resentment over the outcome and the upheaval and instability that resulted set the stage for the Holocaust.
- The “Final Solution” was itself approved by the Nazi apparatus.
- On the eve of Tisha B’Av 1942, the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.
More on the Ninth of Av, which continues through tomorrow. Observant Jews will fast (a complete fast — no food, no water) from sunset tomorrow tonight until nightfall Tuesday night.
For us, this is the “hardest” day of the year.
(Reposted from past years.)