Excerpted from multiple sources.
Tisha B’Av, an annual fast day in Judaism, is named for the ninth day (Tisha) of the fifth month (Av) in the Hebrew calendar.
The 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av, commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe, it’s clearly a day set aside by God for suffering. The following occurred on Tisha B’Av:
1313 BC: The Israelites were in the desert, having recently experienced the miraculous Exodus, and were now at the border and about to enter the Promised Land. They sent out 12 ‘spies’ who spent 40 days scouting out the land to see what lay ahead. The spies returned on the eighth day of Av and reported that the land was full of giants who could not be beaten by them. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, brought a positive report. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cried. They insisted that they’d rather go back to Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites. God was highly displeased by the public demonstration of distrust in His power, and doomed them to wander in the desert for 40 years (one year for every day they spied out the land) and consequently that generation of Israelites never enters the Holy Land. Only their children have that privilege, after wandering in the desert for another 38 years.
More disastrous events which occurred on Tisha B’Av:
- 586 BC: The First Temple was set on fire and destroyed on the 9th of Av. It was built by King Solomon and was the most important place in ancient Judaism. It was demolished when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and took most of the Judeans into captivity.
- 70 AD: The Second Temple was rebuilt on the site of the First Temple and was completed in 516 B.C. Sadly, the Second Temple was also set on fire and destroyed on the 9th of Av. During the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD led by Titus, as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was being destroyed on the same day as the First. Only part of the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount (the “western wall” or Kotel) and three towers near the present Jaffa Gate were left “to show later generations how a proud and might city had been humbled by Rome.”
The destruction of the two Temples took place on the same day – the ninth of Av – about 656 years apart. These two events were so tragic that the ancient rabbis declared the anniversary of the Temples’ destruction a day of mourning. This is the origination of Tisha B’Av.
- 135 AD: Under the Roman emperor Hadrian, circumcision and the practice of Judaism were outlawed. Jerusalem would be rebuilt as Aelia (in honor of his family, Aelias) Capitolina (after the three Capitoline gods — Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, the designated patrons of the new city). Hadrian also renamed the country Palestine after the Biblical Philistines, though the Philistines had long since disappeared. His aim was to erase all memory of the connection between the Jews, Judea and Jerusalem. When the Jews rebelled against Roman rule, they believed that their leader, Simon bar Kochba, was the fulfillment of their messianic longings. But their hopes were cruelly dashed as the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in the final battle at Betar. The date of the massacre? The 9th of Av. One year after their conquest of Betar (the last Jewish stronghold), the Romans plowed over the Temple Mount, Israel’s holiest site.
- 1095: Tisha B’Av of that year was the date Pope Urban II called the first Crusade, which resulted in the killing of more than ten thousand Jews in the first month, and the obliteration of Jewish communities in France and Germany.
- 1290: The edict of King Edward I of England expelling the Jews from the country was signed on the ninth of Av of this year. Their property was confiscated and massacres of Jews occurred. *
- 1492: The Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered the Jews banished from the land. The edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country. There were forced conversions, family separations, pogroms, and much loss of property. The Hebrew date on which no Jew was allowed any longer to remain in the land where he had enjoyed welcome and prosperity? The 9th of Av. **
- 1914: World War II and the Holocaust, historians conclude, was actually the long drawn-out conclusion of World War I that began in 1914. Germany declared war on Russia, effectively catapulting the First World War into motion, on the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av. Over 400 pogroms immediately followed the war in Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and Russia. All but one-third of world Jewry perished. The end of the war set into motion events that would lead to the creation of the Soviet Union, which would wage a 75-year campaign to destroy everything Jewish within its borders. World War I would end in the creation of a peace so debilitating to Germany that it paved the way for WWII, Adolf Hitler and the Shoah (Holocaust).
- 1941: Hermann Göring ordered SS general Reinhard Heydrich to make all the necessary preparations for the Final Solution.
- 1942: The mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp began.
- 2004: At the Democrat National Convention, on Tisha B’Av, Barack Obama was catapulted from relative obscurity to national fame, after giving the keynote speech which electrified the convention. He would go on to become the most avid anti-Israel president in American history. (An important catastrophe overlooked by the Jewish people which needs to be mentioned.)
* The Edict of Expulsion from England was issued on July 18, 1290. Note that if you use a Jewish calendar converter to check this, it will probably show these dates as a few days before the 9th of Av. These expulsions occurred before the Gregorian calendar reform, which altered the way the secular calendar works, and converters don’t take this into account, which causes the discrepancy.
** The Alhambra Decree, issued March 31, 1492, ordered all Jews to leave Spain by the end of July 1492. July 31, 1492 was Tisha B’Av.
Zechariah 7:3 “…Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?”
Tisha B’Av is the culmination of a three week period of increasing mourning, beginning with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, which commemorates the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem, before the First Temple was destroyed.
During this three week period, weddings and other parties and celebrations are not permitted.
The period of the nine days preceding Tisha B’Av are known as The Nine Days. Orthodox Jews mark them as days of intense mourning. From the first to the ninth of Av, it is customary to refrain from eating meat or drinking wine (except on the Shabbat) and from wearing new clothing.
The 9th day, which is marked by a traditional fast, will see dozens of prayer services, each conducted according to the observers’ various Jewish traditions. In synagogue, the book of Lamentations is read and mourning prayers are recited. The ark (cabinet where the Torah is kept) is draped in black.
In Israel, many Jews spend the night next to the Kotel (Western Wall), the last remaining remnant of the Second Temple, and pray for its rebuilding and reestablishment.
Today the Temple Mount is in Islamic hands, with mosques now occupying the place where the Holy of Holies once stood.
For over 2000 years the Jewish people have been mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple. At every festive occasion its loss is remembered. No wedding takes places without the symbolic broken glass. Ashes of mourning are placed upon the forehead of the groom and a section of a new home is left unpainted or unfinished, all in remembrance of the Destruction and the Exile from Zion. One might ask, “Why are they still crying after 2000 years?” Why can’t they get over it and move on? Because there was never any closure, no burial. Why? Because the Temple’s bricks and stone have been destroyed, but the Divine Promise still stands, the Temple will be rebuilt and until that day Zion will never be forgotten.
According to Orthodox belief, Tisha B’Av will remain a day of mourning until the Messiah arrives, at which time it will turn into a great day of celebration, as stated in the Bible: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace,'” (Zechariah 8:19).
However, for us who know and trust in Messiah Jesus for our salvation and reconciliation with Creator God, Tisha B’Av is a time to rejoice that the Temple’s foretold destruction signifies that the way into God’s presence has been opened through the crucified and resurrected Christ.