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Shabbat, August 10, 2019

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

On the Ninth of Av of the year 2449 from creation (1312 BCE), the generation of Jews who came out of Egypt under Moses' leadership 16 months earlier were condemned to die in the desert and the entry into the Land of Israel was delayed for 40 years.

As related in Numbers 14, when the Spies that Moses sent to the Land of Canaan returned with their disheartening report (see "Today in Jewish History" for yesterday, Av 8), the people wept all night -- the night of Av 9th -- proclaiming that they'd rather return to Egypt than attempt to conquer and settle it; G-d decreed that the entire generation would wander in the desert for 40 years until the last of them died out, and that their children, under the leadership of Joshua, will enter the land He promised as Israel's heritage.

This is the first of five national tragedies that occurred on Av 9 listed by the Talmud (Taanit 4:6), due to which the day was designated as a fast day. The other four are: the destruction of the two Temples, the fall of Betar, and the plowing over of Jerusalem. (see below)

Links: The Spies

Both the first and second Holy Temples which stood in Jerusalem were destroyed on Av 9: the First Temple by the Babylonians in the year 3338 from creation (423 BCE), and the second by the Romans in 3829 (69 CE).

The Temples' destruction represents the greatest tragedy in Jewish history, for it marks our descent into Galut--the state of physical exile and spiritual displacement in which we still find ourselves today. Thus the Destruction is mourned as a tragedy that affects our lives today, 2,000 years later, no less than the very generation that experienced it first hand.

Yet the Ninth of Av is also a day of hope. The Talmud relates that Moshiach ("anointed one"--the Messiah), was born at the very moment that the Temple was set aflame and the Galut began. [This is in keeping with the teachings of our sages that, "In every generation is born a descendent of Judah who is worthy to become Israel's Moshiach" (Bartinoro on Ruth); "When the time will come, G-d will reveal Himself to him and send him, and then the spirit of Moshiach, which is hidden and secreted on high, will be manifested in him" (Chattam Sofer).]

Links:
The Holy Temple: an Anthology
Moshiach: an Anthology
Moshiach and the Future Redemption
See "Laws and Customs"

Betar, the last stronghold in the heroic Bar Kochba rebellion, fell to the Romans on the 9th of Av of the year 3893 (133 CE) after a three-year siege. 580,000 Jews died by starvation or the sword, including Bar Kochba, the leader of the rebellion.

Link: A Talmudic account of the fall of Betar

The Jews of England were expelled by King Edward I on this date in 1290.

The Jews of Spain were expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella on the 9th of Av of 1492, terminating many centuries of flourishing Jewish life in that country.

Laws and Customs
The mournful paragraph of Tzidkatecha Tzedek is omitted from the afternoon prayers.

The Shabbat before the Ninth of Av is called Shabbat Chazon ("Shabbat of Vision") after the opening words of the day's reading from the prophets ("haftara"), which is the third of the series of readings known as "The Three of Rebuke." On this Shabbat, say the Chassidic masters, we are granted a vision of the Third Temple; we may not see it with our physical eyes, but our souls see it, and are empowered to break free of our present state of galut (exile and spiritual displacement) and bring about the Redemption and the rebuilding of the Temple.

Links:
The Holy Temple: an Anthology
Shabbat of Vision
About the "Three of Rebuke"
http://www.thethreeweeks.com

Because of the holiness of Shabbat, the Fast of the Ninth of Av mourning destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel (see "Today in Jewish History") is postponed to after Shabbat. The fast begins this evening at sunset, and continues through tomorrow, Av 10, till nightfall.

Some of the fast's mourning practices--such as refraining from Torah study other than texts related to the events and nature of the fast day--are observed beginning from midday today.

Finish eating by sunset. After nightfall say, "Blessed is He who distinguishes between the holy and the mundane." No Havdalah tonight, but light a candle and recite the fire blessing. Havdalah is recited after the fast (omitting the candle and incense blessings).

"Eichah"--the Book of Lamentations--is read tonight in the synagogue after evening prayers.

See "Laws and Customs" for tomorrow, Av 10, for the particular observances of the fast day.

Links:
Mitzvah Minute: Tisha b'Av
Laws of Tishah B'Av

Daily Thought

True, when we work from above and stay above, the transformation we effect does not last. Yet while it is there, it is all-consuming. While it is there, everything experiences a whole new state of being.

True, when we work from within, the transformation is self-sustaining, but it is only skin deep. The beast within remains a beast, just slightly more enlightened. The world remains a world, only a brighter world.

Ultimately, both approaches are needed. We can teach and provide knowledge, yet preserve a sense of the transcendent and unknowable. We can work with the world on its own terms, but we must show it that it is only a world. Within a higher context, it is nothing at all.

Until, eventually, that beast and that world will become the devices through which an unknowable G‑d can be known.

Maamar Padah B’Shalom 5722.