The word holiday implies a celebration. In Europe, you go ON Holiday (here, we call it vacation). So in my mind, Tisha B’Av is not a “holiday.” It is a day to commemorate and observe, for on the Ninth of Av we fast in remembrance of some pretty awful things:
The Destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians and The Destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, both of which occurred on the 9th of Av.
“According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6), we also recall The Twelve Spies and the Romans crushing the “Bar Kokhba’s revolt and destroying the city of Betar, killing over 500,000 Jewish civilians (approximately 580,000) on August 4, 135 CE (Av 9, AM 3895).” (Wikipedia)
Wikipedia also mentions other calamities associated with Tisha B’Av:
“The First Crusade officially commenced on August 15, 1096 (Av 24, AM 4856), killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland.
The Jews were expelled from England on July 18, 1290 (Av 9, AM 5050).
The Jews were expelled from France on July 22, 1306 (Av 10, AM 5066)
The Jews were expelled from Spain on July 31, 1492 (Av 7, AM 5252).”
Clearly you can see why anti-Semitism in Europe is such a great, current day concern and a very real threat.
(First two photos from Chabad.org)
We do not eat or drink
Wash or bathe
Apply creams or oils
Wear leather shoes
Nor do we have marital (sexual) relations
We go to Shul and read the Book Of Lamentations and recite kinnot, which consists of dirges (sad poems) and elegies (lamentations for the dead).
I am both fascinated and frustrated when I discover a major Jewish holiday that I was not aware of. This happened with Shavuot, which is now one of my favorite holidays (Though I am still partial to Passover) and now with Tisha B’Av, a day that I only became fully aware of, after my 2014 trip to Israel. The reason so much of this post is “expository” is that I needed to explore and recap it for myself.
This stresses to me how much we all need to have a full knowledge and understanding of what Judaism is. I will deal with this in a more head on way in another post. Of course, I am fine for people to find their own way, to question and prod and come up with what works for them… I do the same… though this raises a whole host of other tricky issues I will also address.
I speak certainly, and first and foremost for myself… But the first step MUST be to truly learn and comprehend what Judaism and being Jewish REALLY IS. I never did, and so now I am going BACKWARDS… taking what I thought I knew and had been exposed to, and going back to the Source. This is not the ideal way to go, but it is what it is. We are all on our own journey, and this is mine.
So in contradiction to what I said above, and according to Chabad.org:
“Scripture refers to this day as a mo’ed, a holiday.”
“Even as we mourn, there is an element of joy and comfort. Indeed, the reading of Eichah concludes with the verse “Restore us to You, O L‑rd, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.”
“May the time soon come when we look back with the clarity of hindsight to see how all our suffering was but a prelude to happiness and goodness, with the coming of Moshiach.”
I actually wanted to and was going to write about the power of sadness, and how it can actually spur so much positive and joy if we let it. But that requires us sitting with sadness and not fighting against it. That is not always a pleasant thing to do… Okay, it is seldom a pleasant thing to do, but those lessons learned are mighty and powerful.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I connect so deeply in prayer or meditation, that I am overcome with sadness and tears. Sometimes sitting in it and with it can have a great and positive effect on us. But it requires us to be okay with the unknown and uncertainty… to surrender and have faith, and to connect with, and have absolute trust in Hashem.
When life is dealing you a tricky set of cards, sadness can find its way easily into daily life and be an almost constant barrier and reminder. I am in the midst of a series of challenges right now… they are deep and dark and can be overwhelming. I fight against it… battle it… try to put on a good front.
I pray and get frustrated when answers and solutions don’t seem to immediately follow.
I meditate and have days where nothing seems to happen, and others when emotions take full hold of me.
The key is to allow those things in and teach us… to move us wherever they are supposed to, and to know and trust that we are (I am) where I am for a very specific purpose. It’s not easy.
It is no coincidence that in honor of the Nine Days and Tisha B’Av that ArtScroll is selling books on life being a test, finding Emunah and titles by Rabbis Abraham J. Twerski and Noah Weinberg and the Chofetz Chaim.
Life tests all of us. Don’t be afraid of the sadness. Don’t give into it, but sit with it for a while, remember what causes it, honor it and let it direct you… Celebrate it, knowing that is going to enlighten and push you forward. Out of rain and tears, come rainbows and smiles.
An insightful comment by koolkosherkitchen:
“It’s a holiday because Moshiach is supposed to be born (some say revealed) on Tisha b’Av.”
And in an email from my friend Rabbi Avi Rabin:
“Tisha b’Av is also the birthday of our Redeemer. This symbolizes the idea that from the ashes of the destroyed temple will rise an incomparably magnificent edifice; exile will give birth to redemption. Thus Tisha b’Av is also a day of anticipation and hope, for “One who mourns Jerusalem will merit seeing her happiness.”