The Saddest Day on the Jewish Calendar

The fast of Tisha B’Av begins this Monday evening at sundown and ends on Tuesday night. The fast of Tisha B’Av is known as the “saddest” day on the Jewish calendar.

Tisha B’Av is the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, a day when the Jewish people remember some of the great tragedies suffered by the Jewish People.  Tisha B’Av is a day set apart to lament the anniversaries of the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians and of the Second Temple by Romans.

According to an article published by Arutz Sheva , other calamities are remembered on this date:

•G-d decreed, following the Sin of the Spies as recounted in Numbers 13-14, that the Children of Israel would not be allowed to enter the Land of Israel until the entire generation had died out.

•The fall of Beitar, the last fortress to hold out during the Bar Kochba revolt in the year 135 C.E., to the Romans.

•A year later, the Temple area was plowed over, marking the last milestone of national Jewish presence in our homeland until the modern era.

•The Jews of Spain were expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492.

•World War I erupted in 1914, setting the stage for World War II and the Holocaust.

•Mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka death camp began on Tisha B’Av eve of 1942.

•The Jews of Gush Katif spent their last legal day in their homes in Tisha B’Av of 2005, and were expelled three days later.

On Tisha B’Av, the Jewish people read the Scroll of Eichah (The Book of Lamentations).

Aren Maeir, on his post about 9th of Av – Tisha be-Av, wrote:

This is a very meaningful and important day for Jews throughout the ages, one in which the predicaments of each and every generation were, and are, seen through the lenses of the tragedies of past times.

This year there is a somewhat interesting aspect which can connect between this day and our finds at Tell es-Safi/Gath. While in general the Aramean destruction at Gath, dated to ca. 830 BCE, which we have been excavating for quite a number of years, can remind us of the fury and terror of the destruction which Jerusalem underwent, both by the Babylonians and the Romans, this year’s prize find adds an additional tangential connection.

I have already mentioned that there is a striking similarity between the size of the altar that we have found at that of the description of the incense altar in Exodus 30. This is based on the fact that our altar is 54X54 CM wide and just a 100 high, and the altar in Exodus 30 is described as being 1 by 1 cubit in width and two cubits high. This being the case, it would appear that our altar is just that hight – if one accepts that the dimensions described in the Exodus 30 are of the “long cubit” – that of 52 cm.

I will join the Jewish people in the celebration of Tisha B’Av by reading the Scroll of Eichah with them.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Church

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