The Fast of the Fifth Month. It's literal meaning is "the ninth (tisha) day of (the Jewish month of) Av."
Zechariah 7:3-5, 8:19.
The Book of Lamentations (Eicha) describes the destruction of the temple and Israel's exile. It is often read from on this holiday. It was written by the prophet Jeremiah, who warned Jews to repent to prevent the fall of Jerusalem, which he prophesied. His advice was not only ignored, but he was imprisoned for stating views that threatened the king's power.(1)
Some congregations also read from the Book of Job.
Tisha B'av is on the 9th day of the month of Av. It is a day that historically has been bad for the Jewish people. It has been made a day of fasting out of respect for the tragedies that have happened in the past. This is considered by many to be the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Prayer should always be part of a Fast Day. Interestingly, this day contains some hope for future celebration. It is referred to in the Book of Lamentation (Eicha) as an "appointed season", which generally refers to a festive day.
Somehow the 9th of Av has brought with it an unparalleled amount of tragedy. These disastrous occurrences include the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second Temple. It is true that destroying the Second Temple took more than one day to burn to the ground. Josephus writes the majority of the temple burned on the 10th (Wars 6:4). The 9th of Av is the day that is commemorated to remember such events. Rather than institute another day of fasting the Rabbis may have decided to remember both temple destructions on this date. It is also possible the fire started on the evening of the 9th. The two temples were burned down approximately 656 years apart.
Tisha B'av And History:
It is also believed that on this date it was decreed that the Jews leaving Egypt in the exodus could not enter Palestine (Mishna Taanit 26b). This may have something to do with a tradition of the ten spies giving their report to Moses that they were afraid of the giants (Mishna Taanit 29a). This caused a great weeping on the part of Israel (Num. 14:1). Tradition has it that this may be why some Jews believe God has decreed that this day will forever in Israel's history be a day of anguish.
The Talmud tells us that the city of Bethar, the last fortress to hold out against the Romans during the Bar Kochba revolt, was captured by the Romans on this day in 132 A.D..(2)(Other sources place the year at 135 A.D.)
In 1492, the 9th of Av was the last day by which all Jews who would not be baptized had to leave Spain. Some Jews even though they were baptized secretly kept their Jewish identity. They were known as Marranos.(3)
World War 1 (1914) began on the 9th of Av.(3)
1942: The first deportations from Warsaw to Treblinka concentration camp during the Holocaust.(4)
Recent Tisha B'av News:
The day of mourning also is being remembered as the period when the modern Israeli government (summer of 2005) carried out the Disengagement program, which involved the forced expulsion of more than 9,000 Jews from their homes in northern Samaria and the Jewish Gaza region. The government, headed at the time by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his deputy Ehud Olmert, sent in soldiers and police, many of them dressed in black uniforms and riot gear, followed by bulldozers that destroyed Jewish homes. The demolished sites, including the synagogues that remained standing, were handed over to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Within minutes, the over 20 Jewish houses of worship were in flames.(5)
For more events that give this date historical significance see the Tisha B'Av Timeline.
Tisha B'Av in The Arts:
In the Third Movement of Leonard Bernstein's Jeremiah's Symphony, portions of Lamentations are sung to the synagogue melody traditionally used on Tisha B'Av.(4)
Adolf Abraham Berman's oil painting Tisha B'Av.(4)
Other traditions on Tisha B'Av include limited Torah study because it was considered a pleasure (Psalm 19:8). When Torah study is done, it should be limited to mournful topics. Some people abstain from sexual relations, bathing, dressing up, and wearing leather shoes and belts. Other customs include fasting and sitting or sleeping on the ground (Lam. 2:10).
Some observe the custom of a mourning meal. The hour before the onset of Tisha B'Av is marked by a “mourning meal,” consisting only of a hard-boiled egg dipped in ashes, bread, and water. It should be eaten while sitting on low stools or on the floor, with each person sitting alone in a different corner of the room.(6) Sitting on low stools for half of the day and refraining from greeting one another is also common.
Sometimes the atmosphere in the synagogue is designed to produce a solemn mood. This might be done by removing the colorful tapestries that hang from the ark and draping the Torah with a black cloth.
The Sabbath after Tisha B’Avis known as the “comfort Sabbath” (Isaiah 40:1-26). It gets this name partly because it begins with the word comfort and is read shortly after a symbolic mourning holiday (Tisha B’Av, destruction of the temple).
The 9th of Av is considered by some to be a 25 hour fast day.(7)
Our sages teach us that complacency and foot-dragging in building the Holy Temple leads to punishment for all of Israel. This was the reason for the death of all those thousands who fell in war and in plague in the time of King David. They only fell because they did actively seek the building of the Temple (Midrash Tehillim 17). This teaches us that the entire nation was faulted and punished for delaying the building. The words of the Midrash conclude: "How much more so does this apply! For if that generation, which never even saw the Temple-it was neither built nor destroyed in their time-was punished for not expressing desire for it, how much more so are we guilty. For it was destroyed in our generation, and we neither mourn for it nor seek mercy regarding it."(8)
Both the destruction of the first temple and the second temple were predicted in the Bible. The first temple reference can be found with God speaking to Solomon in 1 Kings 9:7. The second temple reference involves Jesus speaking to His disciples (Matt. 24:1-2).
Did God reveal to Israel that the Second Temple would be destroyed in other ways along with Messiah's words? For more on this check out 4 Signs Of The Coming Destruction Of The Temple.
This is one of four days of fasting established after the destruction of the First Temple. The four are found in the Talmudic passage Rosh Hashanah 18b. Along with the Tisha B'Av holiday are the 17th (9th) of Tammuz which commemorates the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem before the First Temple was destroyed; the third of Tishri which was the assassination of Gegaliah; and the tenth of Tevet which is considered to be the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.(9)
Even though the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., there is still reason to mourn. That destruction caused Biblical Judaism to change to Rabbinical Judaism, and it also led to other governments occupying the area. Even today there is destruction going on in the temple mount. The current (July 2009) political body in charge of the temple mount known as the Moslem Wakf, continues to allow construction and maintenance in the area of the Dome on the Rock. This is causing desecration of the artifacts that are being unearthed in the process.
Furthermore, Jews are kept away and not allowed to worship at this area because the Wakf oversees and controls it. The Dome on the Rock is a false temple, which has been erected to honor the false god Allah and physically is located on the ground that the Second Temple once stood. There are many who would like to see the rebuilding of this Jewish temple but mourn today because they have to look at Pagan worship instead of those who want to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob better.
For more information on the historical role of the destruction of the temple please visit templeinstitute.org/time_to_build.htm
For more information on efforts to rebuild the temple please read Rebuilding-The-Temple.htm
It is believed that the Messiah Himself may oversee the rebuilding of the Temple when He returns to reign as King of all Kings during the Millennial Kingdom. This is based on Zechariah 6:12-13.
Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two' (Zechariah 6:12-13).
The Temple is no longer standing for reasons God has ordained. Since He has sovereign control over everything, then we can be sure at the very least He has decided to allow the destruction to occur. Perhaps He is sending a message. Perhaps God is saying that the old way of atonement (using substitute animals) I will no longer accept, as proof, I will allow this destruction.
God has always allowed for an avenue of atonement since the first sin in the Garden of Eden. God Himself may have instituted the first substitute sacrifice by clothing Adam and Eve with animal clothing. Would our sovereign God really allow the Second Temple to be destroyed and remain that way for 2000 years without providing a fulfillment of the sacrificial system that made atonement possible in the first place? For confirmation from the Talmud that the Second Temple sacrifices became obsolete the same year Messiah was sacrificed on the cross, please read Crimson Wool.
Messiah Jesus spoke of the temple's destruction even though it had not occurred yet. "Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matthew 24:1-2).
Titus and his Roman legions fulfilled that prediction as they marched into Jerusalem, destroyed the city and destroyed the Temple. This national tragedy pointed back to the words of Jesus of Nazareth. Thousands of Jews had already come to faith in Him. At the destruction of that Second Temple in A.D. 70, thousands more recognized that He had spoken truly.(10)
Messiah also referred to Himself as a temple when He said “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 1:19). He meant that he would die and be raised in three days, and he also meant that the physical temple would be destroyed and that by rising from the dead, he would replace that building as the place to commune with the Father.(11)
Some consider the 9th of Av to be the day on which the Messiah will be born.(9) This would be one way to turn around a sad holiday to a joyous one. This also teaches that there is yet some type of redemption in all the destruction.
Jesus Taught This About Fasting:
Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18).
The destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians resulted in the dispersal of Israel to around 127 provinces of Babylon. With them went God's Law and the Word of God, resulting in pagan peoples within this empire being exposed to the One True God of the universe. It led to the raising up of Daniel as the Babylonian Prime Minister and Esther as the Persian Queen. It also resulted in Ezra and Nehemiah being raised up to restore temple worship and the city of Jerusalem.(12)
The Second Temple's destruction resulted in dispersal to the various parts of the Roman Empire. This time, the Messianic Jewish Believers who knew Yeshua (Jesus), took the Good News with them, exposing pagan peoples to the love of Yeshua, true atonement and eternal life.(12) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Deportations from Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp began on the ninth of Av 1942. No one can minimize the horror of the Holocaust but, because of this incomprehensible tragedy, Israel was reborn as a nation in a day, just as it was prophesied in Isaiah 66:8.(12)
A Midrash For This Holiday:
Midrash tells us that G-d rebuked the Israelites, saying "since you have cried over nothing, this day, the ninth of Av will prove in time to be a day of real anguish for the Jewish nation." And so it is that both the first Holy Temple and the second were destroyed by our enemies on the ninth day of Av - Tish'a b'Av. Subsequent Jewish history has been plagued by disasters of existential proportion on the ninth of Av.(13)
According to Midrash, every year following the debacle of the spies, on the ninth of Av, all the Israelite men would dig their own graves and lie down in them. The following morning only those who had escaped the decree for one more year climbed up out of their graves. For thirty nine years this grim ceremony repeated itself each year on the ninth of Av. In the fortieth year of the wanderings of the Jews through the desert, the Israelite men, on the ninth of Av, once again dug their own graves and lay down within them. The following morning each and every man who had entered his own grave emerged alive. Their punishment was over. All those still alive on the tenth of Av would be counted among those who would enter the promised land. Still not convinced, and concerned that they may have simply misread the calendar, the men proceeded to reenter their graves each night for an entire week. On the night of the fifteen, Tu b'Av, when the moon was full, and all doubt that the Divine retribution had run its course was dispelled, the people celebrated.(13)
From The Talmud: The Talmud teaches that the First Temple was destroyed because of three [evil] things which prevailed there: idolatry, immorality, bloodshed. It teaches the Second Temple was destroyed due to causeless hatred (Talmud-Mas. Yoma 9b).
Talmud Yerushalmi Brachot 2:4 and the preface to "Midrash Rabba" Ester 11 mention that the Messiah's birthday may be on the 9th of Av.
Israeli law forbids the opening of restaurants, clubs and theaters on Tisha B’Av.
If you know of someone fasting on this day, one of the appropriate greetings would be "I hope you have an easy fast" (Tzome Khal). From another perspective, a new greeting, "I hope you don't have an easy fast" is emerging. The thinking behind this greeting is that the fast should not be easy but challenging, so that it can serve its purpose (of reminding us that we are dependant upon God) to the fullest.
The following prayer from the Amidah calling for the temple to be rebuilt so sacrifices can resume is said daily by orthodox Jews:
"Be favorable, Hashem, our God, toward Your people Israel and their prayer and restore the service to the Holy of Holies of Your Temple."(14)
In the Third Movement of Leonard Bernstein's Jeremiah Symphony, portions of Lamentations are sung to the synagogue melody traditionally used on Tisha B'Av.(15)
For a list of future holidays dates check the Master Calendar Table.
Find out more about Fast Days observed in the Jewish Religion:
Articles related to the Temple include:
Let your Jewish friends know that you also are sad due to the destruction of the Temples and that you look forward to the rebuilding of the next one.
Tisha B'av is worth observing - not only for the tragedies that occurred, but also for the way God fulfilled His plan to present His Word to all the world, to bring Yeshua to all the nations, and to reinstate the nation of Israel.
1). Arutz Sheva News 8-10-2008.
2). Hist. Shel Bayit Sheni, Vol. 5, Chapter 20.
3). Chabad of Peoria Jewish Art Calendar 5766.
4). Jews For Jesus Newsletter. August 2008.
5). Arutz Sheva News 8-10-2008.
6). Arutz Sheva News 7-30-2009.
7). The Temple Institute 7/11/06 Internet News.
8). The Temple Institute Wednesday, August 06, 2003.
9). Information from The Biblical And Historical Background Of The Jewish Holy Days, by Abraham P. Bloch is copyrighted material and was used with permission of the publisher. KTAV Publishing, 900 Jefferson Street. Box 6249, Hoboken, NJ 07030-0102
10). Jews For Jesus Newsletter, Aug. 2008 p.2.
12). The Messianic Times (July 2007 Newsletter).
13). The Temple Institute 9th of Av Email, 7-23-2007.
14). The Complete Artscroll Siddur p.111
15). Jews for Jesus Newsletter August 2015.