July 24, 2015
This Shabbat is Tisha B’Av, the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av. On this date in 586 bce, the Babylonians destroyed the city of Jerusalem and took its populace to Babylon into captivity. On the same date in 70 ce, the Romans, too, destroyed Jerusalem at the end of a long siege, putting an end to the Jewish rebellion against Rome. And... on this date in 1492 ce, the Jews of Spain were banished from the Iberian Peninsula on the orders of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Tradition has it that many other tragedies befell the Jews on this exact cosmic date. These were great unbearable tragedies for the Jewish People, and this anniversary is a day of fasting, of mourning, of prayer, and of reading the Book of Lamentations – the Biblical book attributed to the prophet Jeremiah of mourning for Jerusalem. There are several fast days in the Jewish calendar, black fasts of mourning mostly attributed to the sieges and stages of destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the Romans. This year, however, it’s also Shabbat. Since the Shabbat is the most joyous of our holidays, the rabbis of antiquity, for whom the destruction of Jerusalem was almost within memory, decided that a day of fasting and of mourning was inappropriate. The only time there is fasting on a Shabbat is, in fact, Yom Kippur, a fast of the spirit and of introspection and is considered a white fast rather than a black one. So... the actual observance of Tisha B’Av – the fasting, the mourning, and the reading of Lamentations – is delayed by one day and observed starting Saturday night, the Tenth of Av. Therefore, this allows us to truly enjoy this Shabbat as a joyous and happy day of rest.