Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av which begins this evening, July 29, is the Jewish day for mourning the loss of both Temples in Jerusalem, the first in 586 BC and the second in AD 70, and other tragedies which have befallen the Jewish people through history. Jews mourn, fast and read from Eicha (Lamentations) and the Kinnot (dirges from the Bible and later) during Tisha B’Av.
Jews mark Tisha B’Av today as the world is undergoing rapid changes: a global pandemic with no clear end in sight and closed national borders, economic crises and civil unrest. We know the Second Temple fell because of disagreements between Jews. Tisha B’Av today resonates deep sadness for the Temple and for the reality in which find ourselves now. Not just the pandemic, but the deep, incomprehensible division of society.
This new kind of physical and moral division of the people compels us to mourn even more the loss of unity and common goals.
It is important for us today to remember our past for the sake of our future. There is a story that the emperor Napoleon heard Jews mourning on the night of the ninth of Av and asked why they were mourning. He was told it was for their Temple. When did they lose it? Over a thousand years ago, they told him. He said a people who a thousand years later are still mourning the destruction of their Temple surely has a future.
Despite the huge tragedies which have befallen the Jewish people over 4,000 years of history, the Jews knew and believed the Messiah would come on Tisha B’Av.
The corona virus story shows man is not all-powerful. He doesn’t rule the world. We can do what we are able to do, but the result of our work depends on Him.
Tisha B’Av is the saddest holiday on the Jewish calendar, but also a day of hope.
Maariv prayers will begin at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius today at 8:00 P.M. The fast begins at 9:25 P.M. today. The reading from Eicha begins at the synagogue at 10:00 P.M. The fast (for 25 hours) ends at 10:09 P.M. on July 30.
Simas Levin, chairman
Vilnius Jewish Religious Community