Tisha Be’av, the day set aside in the Jewish calendar to
mourn the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, is postponed a day
this year. Instead of the ninth day of the month of Av, the fasting, the
abstinence, the refraining from washing, the sitting low to the ground and the
wearing of shoes without traces of leather are all observed this year beginning
Saturday night the 10th of Av.
Technically, this year the fast should be
called Asarah Be’av, not Tisha Be’av.
The day of mourning is delayed out
of respect for Shabbat, a day for resting, rejoicing and eating. (The
fast of Yom Kippur is observed when it falls on Shabbat because the opportunity
to fast in exchange for the atonement of one’s sins should evoke joy.)
the fast is delayed a day, certain leniencies are permitted. For instance, women
who are pregnant or breastfeeding are given sweeping exemptions from the fast.
The reasoning for this is as follows: If the mourning is not taking place on the
allotted day anyway, why go out of our way to obligate those for whom the fast
is particularly difficult? If the rabbis were to take this reasoning one step
further (which they don’t), they might be persuaded to call the whole fast
The knowledge that this year’s fast is postponed might lead some of
us to take Tisha Be’av less seriously. Further complicating the situation
is the difficulty many of us have identifying with Tisha Be’av even when it
falls on Tisha Be’av. How many of us can truly say that we yearn for the day
when a holy slaughterhouse is once again built on the Temple Mount?
difficult not to agree with American writer Leon Wieseltier’s claim that “it was
in the absence of a Temple that Judaism began to soar, owing to the twin
blessing of cosmopolitism and introversion.”
Even Maimonides noted in his
Guide for the Perplexed that God commanded the Jewish people to bring
sacrificial offerings as a temporary measure at a time in history when they were
accustomed to idolatry.
If we are unable to feel real sorrow for the
destruction of the Temple, how are we to go about making this Tisha Be’av a
meaningful day of mourning? Perhaps one way is to recognize, through even a
cursory look at current events, just how far the Jewish people are from
redemption, whether heavenly or earthly.
Here is just a sample of
depressing recent developments:
• At the Olympic Games launched Friday in
London, the International Olympic Committee has stubbornly refused to spare even
one minute of silence
for the 11 killed at the 1972 Munich Games.
Compounding the outrage at this callousness is the knowledge that terrorists
targeting the Israeli delegation is no thing of the past. During their stay in
London, Israeli athletes and trainers are in need of extra-tight security
sets them apart from all other countries.
• Meanwhile, the Europe Union
refused this week to blacklist Hezbollah
as a terrorist
This is the same Iranian proxy that is involved in a spate
of about 20 attempts in the past two years to murder Israelis and Jews
• And with President Basher Assad’s grip on his country
loosening, Israelis are rushing to get government- issue gas masks
out of fear
Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles will be used against them.
destroyed Temple can stand as a metaphor for all those things in the world that
need to be fixed.
But there is also a bit of consolation: Never before
have the Jewish people been better poised to fix what is wrong in the world or,
at the very least, cope with it.
While Wieseltier might be right that
Jews “slowly but steadily snatched a spiritual victory from a national defeat”
after the destruction of the Temple and exile from their land, the return of the
Jewish people to sovereignty in their historic homeland has opened up vistas of new potential.