Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tisha B'Av: Hopeful Anticipation Amidst Bitter Mourning

by Hillel Fendel

(IsraelNN.com) Monday night and Tuesday marks Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of Av, commemorating many of the worst tragedies that have befallen the Jewish People over the past 3,300 years. Jews the world over are fasting and praying on this day for the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple.

Though this day is the saddest in the Jewish calendar, it contains several hopeful features. It is referred to in the Book of Lamentations (Eicha) as an "appointed season" (moed, in Hebrew), which generally refers to a festive day - and in fact, it is expected to be the day on which the Messiah will have been born. When reading Eicha aloud following the evening prayer service, the penultimate verse is repeated, with the prayer, "Return us unto You, G-d, and we will return. Renew our days as of old!" In addition, the somber Tachanun prayer is not recited on Tisha B'Av.

On the other hand, many calamities occurred on this day. Among them were the following, in chronological order:

* the refusal of the Jewish People to ignore the report of the Twelve Scouts and agree to go with Moses to the Promised Land. In the wake of this, G-d decreed on Tisha B'Av 40 years of wandering in the desert instead of an immediate entry into the Land.
* the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples in Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians and Romans, respectively;
* the failure of the Bar Kokhba uprising in the second century;
* the day on which all of Spanish Jewry was to be expelled from the country in 1492; the beginning of World War I in 1917;
* the end of legal Jewish residence in Gush Katif, in 2005, as decreed by the Ariel Sharon government.

As on every Tisha B'Av since the liberation of the Old City in 1967, myriads of Jews, this year reaching 100,000, frequented the Western Wall (Kotel) Monday night and Tuesday, praying for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple just behind it. Rabbi Eliezer Melamed - Rabbi of Har Bracha in the Shomron and author of several Halakhic [Jewish Legal] works - relates to the question of whether the gathering at the Kotel constitutes a joyous get-together, which is ordinarily forbidden on Tisha B'Av. He writes,

"It is clear that one need not refrain from going to the Western Wall [on Tisha B'Av] for fear of meeting friends and being happy. My father and teacher [Rabbi Zalman Melamed] has said that there is no greater rectification [tikun, in Hebrew] for Tisha B'Av than to go to the Wall, the remnant of the destruction, and to pray for the Holy Temple to be speedily rebuilt in our days. On the contrary, the fact that many people go there enhances the power of the prayer, and increases Divine honor."

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed added that when one meets friends at the Kotel on Tisha B'Av, "he should not greet them, but is permitted to grasp their hands with love and pray with them for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple)."

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