July 17, 2015
Tonight, Erev Shabbat, is the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av – 2 Av, to be exact. From the first of Av till the ninth of Av is referred to as the “Nine Days” – tragic days for the Jewish People. On the Ninth of Av, both Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed – Solomon’s Temple destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and The Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. The whole commemoration of this national tragedy actually began last month on the 17th of Tammuz (July 4), the date that the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago. This period called “The Three Weeks” is commemorated as three weeks of mourning, but the mourning is stepped up on the first of the month of Av.
From the first of Av, till the ninth of Av, the date of the actual destruction of the Temple, traditional Jews mark the time with practices of mourning: men don’t shave, many people don’t bathe, joyous celebrations are avoided. And... traditional Jews refrain from eating meat as a sign of diminished joy. The exception, however, is tonight and Saturday – Shabbat. Shabbat is a time of unbridled joy. The term “Oneg Shabbat” often used to refer to the food reception served in synagogues after the evening or morning services, actually means “The Rejoicing of the Sabbath.” Therefore, even those who avoid meat during the Nine Days make a point of eating meat on Shabbat as an example of the joy of the Sabbath. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) actually was a vegetarian. However, he always ate a small amount of meat on every Sabbath, following the tradition of joyousness, and eating meat on Shabbat.