Tisha B’av: Ancient Day of National Mourning

This year, the sacred and solemn day of Tisha B’av (the Ninth of Av) falls tonight (July 15) and tomorrow.  The day commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, as well as many other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish People.  Many Jews fast for a full twenty-four hours (as on Yom Kippur) and mourn the passing of the Temple.  The biblical book of Lamentations is sung as a dirge.  It is a dark day.  Nevertheless, the day has a hopeful side in that, from Tisha B’av we start counting off the seven weeks that lead to the New Year.  Tisha B’av is a sad day, but it is also a day of hope.

Over the last one hundred and fifty years Reform Jews have often chose not to commemorate Tisha B’av.  In the beginning, since Reform Jews did not look to at the ancient Temple as something they wished to restore, the day did not make sense.  In more recent times, feeling sadness at a time when the State of Israel is so robust appeared unreflective of reality.  Even so, many Reform Jews appreciate the sadness of the day and are more willing to consider its importance as a day of somber reflection.

Although Temple Sholom has no scheduled activities for Tisha B’av, we hope you will consider participating in one of the many community opportunities that are available.  Our neighbor, Anshe Sholom will be offering services and a check of the Chicago Jewish News website will provide other ideas.

We are told by the ancient Rabbis that the First Temple was destroyed because of idolatry and the Second because of gratuitous hatred between Jews.  I no longer worry about idolatry but the gratuitous hatred is still a threat.  So I pray that, on this Tisha B’av, we can remember how important it is to befriend each other and honor the divinity within.

Rabbi Edwin Goldberg is the Senior Rabbi at Temple Sholom of Chicago. In addition, he is the coordinating editor of the forthcoming CCAR Machzor and is the author of five books. His newest book is, Saying No and Letting Go: Jewish Wisdom on Making Room for What Matters Most.