As Jewish communities around the world prepare for Tisha B’Av—a day of fasting and mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 69 C.E.—Jewish people everywhere were greeted with positive messages calling for renewed hope and an increase in acts of kindness, particularly at a time of war.
In Jerusalem, there was a substanitally increased police presence as thousands of worshippers made their way to Tisha B’Av services at the Kotel (Western Wall) in the Old City, following two terrorist attacks earlier in the day.
An IDF soldier was shot in the stomach by a terrorist near Mount Scopus. The soldier is reported to be in serious condition at a Jerusalem hospital, and police are searching for the attacker, who fled on a motor scooter. That came less than three hours after a pedestrian was killed in an attack nearby, when a terrorist ran over a Jewish pedestrian and overturned a bus with a digger he was operating at a construction site. The driver was shot and killed by Israeli authorities.
Chabad centers around the world have been preparing for the holiday, with programs of all kinds designed to educate both adults and children about what is recognized as the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.
Still, Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson of Chabad of Belgravia in London stressed the positive focus that the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—placed on every aspect of Jewish life and history.
“The saddest day on the Jewish calendar is no doubt the Ninth of Av, which was … a day of collective mourning and national calamity. Not so in the Rebbe’s history book,” he explained. The Rebbe chose “to define the day not by its actual and repetitive tendency towards catastrophe, but by its redemptive and healing potential,” Kalmenson said at the recent annual convention of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries to the United Kingdom.
The Rebbe taught the way to rectify the cause of the exile and bring about the Redemption is by practicing baseless love—to show love to a fellow human being even when one cannot see any justification for such love.
Beginning on the evening of Monday, Aug. 4, this year and continuing into Tuesday, Aug. 5, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av marks the date that the Second Temple fell 1,939 years ago, and the ensuing exile of the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. Many other tragic events occurred throughout the ages on this date, including the fall of the First Temple and the punishment of the newly freed Israelites from Egypt made to wander the desert for 40 years.
Lesser mourning practices, such as not listening to music or holding simchas like weddings, in addition to not cutting one’s hair, began three weeks before Tisha B’Av.
A Positive Focus on the Future
To emphasize the forward-looking aspects of the solemn day, community members built a model of the Temple at Chabad Lubavitch of Riverdale, N.Y., assembling the chambers alongside a step-by-step explanation. The model’s dimensions were an impressive 15 feet by 5 feet. It’s the first year that they constructed the “Build Your Own Beit Hamikdash” activity, which they built all over again with children at their camp, so that the 100 or so kids, ages 3 to 11, could see the project in action as well.
Chabad Lubavitch of Riverdale, N.Y., offered an activity called "Build Your Own Beit Hamikdash," where both adults and children helped assemble the 15-by-5-foot model.
“They really got a very good idea about [the Beit Hamikdash]. We have all talked and discussed and learned about it, and now we can see what it looks like and what it eventually will look like,” explains Rabbi Levi Shemtov, co-director of the Chabad center with his wife, Sarah. “It really brings it back home.”
An institute in Israel made the building project possible. In fact, the wood pieces have been on the move in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for the past few weeks, giving people the opportunity to “build the Temple.”
Lamentations and Fasting
At synagogues around the world this evening, the lights will be dimmed and the curtain removed from the ark. The book of Lamentations, or “Eichah,” is read after evening prayers, with the congregation following along in an undertone.
Observance includes fasting and not wearing leather shoes, not wearing tallit and tefillin until afternoon prayers on Tuesday, and hearing a selection from Deuteronomy that speaks about the destruction of the Land of Israel.
With the day in mind, Chabad of Dutchess County & the Rhinebeck Jewish Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is preparing to show a movie in advance of Tisha B’Av. It’s called “Final Boarding,” about Israel’s removal of some 8,600 Jews in August 2005 from the Gush Katif settlement, a bloc of Jewish settlements in the southern Gaza Strip.
“Tisha B’Av starts late, so we figured we’d watch a movie that puts people in the mood to see what Tisha B’Av is all about,” says Hindy Borenstein, co-director of Chabad of the Mid-Hudson Valley in New York with her husband, Rabbi Yacov Borenstein. “It reminded me of the destruction of the Temple; there was no movie I would rather show that was so timely in terms of its compass and its message.
“With the war in Israel, the hearts of Jews everywhere are really, really turned to there, and everybody wants to do something to help,” she says.
She adds that she hopes to tap into Jewish unity, and the fact that all Jews are connected to one another. “I think there’s been a tremendous revival or arousal of unity, and that unity should remain and really be the catalyst to bring Moshiach, which is what we pray for so much on Tisha B’Av.”
The movie will be followed by a reading of Eichah.
Looking Forward to a Better World
Rabbi Shmuly Lein, co-director of the Chabad of North Brooklyn, N.Y., with his wife, Devora Leah, sent out an email with an explanation of the holiday, which goes to about 1,000 people.
“We explain the idea of destruction, and the idea of rebuilding the Beit Hamikdash [the Holy Temple] and the coming of Moshiach,” he says.
They’re expecting about 50 people to gather at their Williamsburg loft space for prayer and the reading of Eichah. On Tuesday, they will hold services and eventually end the fast together.
“It raises awareness when we send the email,” says Lein. He explains that Tisha B’Av will ultimately turn into a joyous holiday out of the depths of sadness. “Now we’re mourning, but hopefully soon, things will change.”
At programs taking place at Chabad centers around the world during the fast day, emissaries were preparing to emphasize some key Chassidic themes of the day. The Rebbe would often remark on the Talmud’s conclusion that the Temple was destroyed as a result of “baseless hatred” among Jews. Accordingly, the Rebbe taught, the way to rectify the cause of the exile and bring about the Redemption is by practicing baseless love—to show love to a fellow human being even when one cannot see any justification for such love.
The Rebbe also urged, in a public letter written in 1984, that the days following Tisha B’Av represent “an opportune time for good resolutions in all matters of … Torah and mitzvot, which nullify the cause of the exile.”