Today is Tisha b’Av, the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. The Mishnah says five disasters occurred on this date:
- The twelve spies came back with their report on the land Israel, and ten of them had a negative report that caused the people to lose heart
- The Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians (587 BCE)
- The Temple was destroyed by the Romans (70 CE)
- The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed (132 CE)
- Turnus Rufus (the wicked) plowed the Temple Mount and surrounding area (133 CE)
Many additional disasters befell the Jewish people on this day – pogroms, expulsions, etc., including the expulsion from Spain in 1492. It’s not a lucky day on our calendar.
Traditionally we fast as a sign of mourning. The Mishnah tells us all who mourn for the destroyed Jerusalem will merit to rejoice with the rebuilt Jerusalem in the world to come.
I’m not fasting and mourning in order to receive a reward in the world to come.
I have a hard time fasting for the destroyed Jerusalem, when I live in a very vibrant, lively, beautiful Jerusalem, home to half a million Jews (and 300,000 Muslims and Christians).
But I do fast.
I fast because 64 Israeli soldiers have lost their lives in the last few weeks defending us from Hamas rockets.
I fast because 2 Israelis and a Thai have been killed by Hamas rockets.
I fast because 1,880 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, many of them women and children.
I fast because much of the Gaza Strip has been reduced to rubble.
I fast because three Jewish teenagers were kidnapped and killed by Muslim terrorists.
I fast because a Muslim teenager was kidnapped and killed by Jewish terrorists.
I fast because two Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks in my home city, Jerusalem, yesterday.
I fast because 47 years after the Six Day War in 1967 we have failed to figure out a path to peace with the Palestinians.
I fast because it is unjust that 47 years later my country still governs as a military authority over the Palestinians living in the West Bank.
I fast because 66 years after the War of Independence Israel is still an outcast in the Middle East.
I fast because peace has not yet come to Israel. We have a country, but we do not have peace. Our economy is booming while our morals seem to plummeting, with racism on the rise. Naftali Bennett, the high-tech success and darling of the Israeli right is the poster boy for financial success and moral bankruptcy.
I fast because I have not done everything in my power to fix this screwed up situation. I know I can’t do it by myself, but I also know I haven’t done enough, so I fast not so much to try and receive penance from God, but to remind myself that I need to redouble my efforts to do more. I fast in solidarity with all my compatriots who see the world as a broken place and who are dedicated to contributing to the work of fixing it.
If we ever do achieve real peace in the Middle East – peace with the Palestinians and true peace and trade with our neighbors – I will observe Tisha b’Av as a day of feasting, because whether an individual we call the Messiah has come or not, we will surely have entered the Messianic Age.
Until that time comes, I’ll be fasting on Tisha b’Av.