Every year camp counselors confront a dilemma: what content is appropriate for Tisha B’Av when this fast day occurs during the camp season. Should the campers be expected to fast? The counselors? In many cases, commemorating Tisha B’Av is reduced to cancelling swimming or programming an activity related to the rabbinic midrash of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza on the destruction of the Temple. What indeed is Tisha B’Av’s place in contemporary society?
At the outset, I would like to stress the importance of the laws of Tisha B’av. On the one hand, I believe that it is very important to fast on Tisha B’av and to remember the Destruction in our day, even after the rebirth of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem. On the hand, there are many stringencies connected to “the three weeks” between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, which were added in the Middle Ages by Aveilei Tziyon [= Mourners of Zion] and Ashkenazic rabbis, which have no Talmudic basis and which, in my opinion, there is no reason to observe.
According to Jewish tradition, five events took place on the 17th of Tammuz: Moses smashed the tablets of the Law, the daily offering was abolished at the time of the Second Temple, the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Roman general Titus, and the Torah scroll was burnt by Apostamos, who also erected an idol in the Temple (time unknown).
The Days of Awe, or High Holidays, constitute one of two beginnings in the Hebrew calendar. The second beginning of the year is marked in the spring at Passover, Holiday of Freedom.
All the Jewish festivals are tied up with one another as commemorating Creation, a cosmic event from which all life in the universe originated, and as commemorating the Exodus, an event of national significance to the Jewish people in particular. But it can be argued that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur represent more the cosmic aspect of traditional Jewish existence, while Passover, Shavuot and, to an extent, Sukkot represent more the national particular aspect.
As a Zionist and a religious Jew, I see God’s hand in the rebirth of the Jewish state, and the subsequent restoration of ancient Jerusalem and the Temple Mount to Jewish sovereignty. In fact, while most religious Zionists believe that the State of Israel marksthe beginning of the burgeoning of our redemption, my sense is that this rebirth and restoration are the totality of the promised redemption foretold by the prophets of yore, for which Jews have prayed for 2000 years.
What are the sources for the viduy or confession of sins [note]Saul Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, New York, 1950, p. 140, note 11, says that the original meaning of viduy is “declaration”.[/note] on Yom Kippur? Must we recite the very long confession of sins which is found in the Mahzor?
One of the strangest tales told about the destruction of Jerusalem, its Temple and its inhabitants is to be found in the Babylonian Talmud (Gittin 57b; Sanhedrin 96b) concerning an encounter between Nebuzaradan and Zechariah Ben Yehoyadah. Though these two Biblical personages lived two and a half centuries apart, according to the Talmud they “met” on the Temple Mount during its destruction in the year 586 BCE.
In light of the rebirth of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem, should we continue to fast on Tisha B’avand the other three fasts which commemorate the Destruction of the Temple?
During the second week in July, we note the seventeenth day of Tammuz, the day on which the walls of the city of Jerusalem were breached by Roman forces almost two thousand years ago. This event hastened the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the ninth day of Av, 70 C.E., which occurs this year on July 30. These distant events take on contemporary meaning as we contemplate the reasons our Sages gave for this disaster.
The fast day of the Tenth of the Hebrew month of Tevet (this year, today,January 4) symbolizes the first of a series of events which led to the destruction of the First Temple: the beginning of the siege of the Babylonians on Jerusalem, the capital city of Judea, as the Book of Kings relates:
“Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. And in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month Nebuchadnezzar moved against Jerusalem with his whole army. He besieged it; and they built towers against it all around. The city continued in a state of siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah” (Kings II, 25 verse 1-2)