Jews set to mark Tisha B’Av, annual mourning of Temple’s destruction

Annual fast day that begins at sundown Wednesday marks key disasters in history that have befallen the Jewish people.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Jews around the world will mark Tisha B’Av that begins at sundown Wednesday to mark the annual day of mourning for many of the major disasters that befell the Jewish people throughout history.

Tisha B’Av literally translates as the ninth day of the Hebrew calendar month of month of Av. Religious Jews fast and refrain from any joyous activity to mark the destruction of the two Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, the first destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE and the second by the Romans in 70 CE.

The day is marked as a Jewish day of mourning not just for those events, but other tragedies throughout history including the Crusades, the expulsions of the Jews from England, France and Spain, and on Tisha B’Av in 1941 the Nazis formally approved “The Final Solution” marking the start of the Holocaust in which almost one third of the world’s Jewish population was murdered.

The three-week period before Tisha B’Av is a preparation period leading up to what is a day of mourning for those who were killed and the fall of Jerusalem, a calamity that resulted in the dispersion of Jews as foreigners took over the Holy Land.

At evening prayers in synagogues, the biblical Book of Lamentations is chanted using a special, mournful tune. The book is a collection of sorrowful poetic and powerful symbolic recollections of the destruction of Jerusalem.

As a sign of mourning, those in the synagogue sit on the floor while the book is recited.

Traditionally on the eve of Tisha B’Av tens of thousands of Jews would flock to the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem’s Old City for the recitation, but health restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic limit prayer groups to 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors.

The French leader Napoleon passed a synagogue one night in Paris and heard lamentations emanating from those inside. When told that the wailing commemorated the destruction of the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years previously, Napoleon proclaimed: “People who solemnize ancient history are destined for a glorious future!”

Historians estimate the number of Jews killed to be huge for the times of the disasters. The destruction of Jerusalem and the first Temple by the Babylonians is estimated to have killed 100,000 Jews, with most of the rest being carried off as captives. The Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the second Temple in 70 CE killed up to one million Jews, and when Rome crushed the Bar Kokhbah a century later, an estimated 600,000 Jews died.