[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

The fast of the 9th of Av (the 5th month of the Jewish calendar year), known as Tisha B’Av, marks the conclusion of a three-week mourning period, in which Jews mourn the loss of the destruction of Jerusalem and the first and second Holy Temples. Tisha B’Av is known as one of the saddest days of the Hebrew calendar. In addition to mourning the loss of Jerusalem and the Holy Temples, the Jewish people also mourn the following events which occurred on the 9th of Av.

  1. The sin of the Ten Spies: Besides Joshua and Caleb, there were 10 spies (from 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel) that gave over a report of the situation of Israel to the people in the dessert. Their report was one which created a sense of despair and hopelessness among the Jewish people. The night that the people cried over what they perceived was their inability to conquer Israel was the ninth of Av, which became a day of weeping and misfortune for all time.
  2. The Jews were expelled from England on July 18, 1290 (Av 9).
  3. Germany entered World War I on August 1–2, 1914 (Av 9-10). The war caused massive destruction and upheaval throughout Europe.
  4. On August 2, 1941 (Av 9), SS commander Heinrich Himmler formally received approval from the Nazi Party for “The Final Solution.” As a result, the Holocaust began, which resulted in the loss of almost one third of the world’s Jewish population.
  5. On July 23, 1942 (Av 9), began the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka ( an extermination camp, built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II). This extermination camp was used to murder many of the Jewish residents of Poland en masse.

This year, sunset on Monday night will mark the beginning of the 9th day of Av and the fast. After the morning prayers are recited, Jewish people have the custom to recite Eicha, what is also known as the book of Lamentations (which mourns the destruction of Jerusalem), followed by the recitation of kinnot or liturgical dirges that lament the loss of the Temples, Jerusalem and other calamities which have befallen the Jewish people throughout our history.

During the fast of the 9th of Av, Jews take upon themselves a more stringent form of mourning*. During the 9th of Av, many Jews refrain from:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Washing or bathing
  • Application of creams or oils
  • Wearing of leather shoes
  • Marital relations

According to our tradition, the first Temple, built by King Solomon, in Jerusalem existed and served the Jewish community for 410 years and the second Temple for 420 years. We look forward to the rebuilding of the 3rd Temple speedily in our days!

*Other fast days, such as the 17th of Tammuz have less restrictions.