A Day of Disaster

Many calamitous events are said to have occurred on Tisha B'Av.

Tisha B’Av has become the collective day of mourning in the Jewish calendar. Many tragic events are reputed to have occurred on this date. In some cases there is a question as to the precise dating of an event. For instance, with regard to the destruction of the First and Second Temples, some 656 years apart but on the same date — the 9th of Av — some sources indicate that the First Temple was destroyed on either the seventh or the 10th of Av, and the Second Temple was destroyed on the 10th of Av; rabbinic authorities, however, decided to mark the ninth of Av as the official date for remembering the destruction of both.

Tisha B’Av serves to bind all of the following tragic events together in one day of mourning and remembering. [Tradition has it that] on the ninth of Av:

  • It was decreed that the Israelites, after leaving Egypt, would wander in the desert for 40 years, until a new generation would be ready to enter the Promised Land.
  • The First Temple (that Solomon built) was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylonia, in 586 B.C.E.
  • The Second Temple (that returning exiles built and then Herod rebuilt) was destroyed by Titus and the Romans in 70 C.E.
  • Betar, the fortress headquarters of Shimon Bar Kochba, fell to the Romans in 135 C.E.
  • Hadrian, the Roman [emperor] and ruler of Jerusalem, in 136 C.E., established a heathen temple [in Jerusalem] and rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city.
  • The Edict of Expulsion of the Jews from England was signed by King Edward I in 1290.
  • Ferdinand and Isabella decreed this to be the official date of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Led by Isaac Abarbanel, 300,000 Jews began to leave Spain on that date. Columbus set out on his first voyage of discovery on the day after Tisha B’Av (after delaying his sailing by one day).

Reproduced with permission from Teaching Jewish Holidays: History Values and Activities (A.R.E. Publishing, Inc.).

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The Book of Lamentations

This special reading for Tisha B'Av sets the tone for this tragic and mournful day

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The liturgy for the 9th of Av includes Lamentations and special additional elegies.

Tisha B’Av Rituals and Practices

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