AV, THE NINTH OF


AV, THE NINTH OF (Heb. תִּשְׁעָה בְּאָב, Tishah be-Av), traditional day of mourning for the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem.

Historical Background

The First Temple, built by King Solomon, was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E. on the 10th of Av, according to Jeremiah 3:12, whereas in the corresponding record in II Kings 25:8–9, the date is given as the 7th of Av. The Tosefta Ta'anit 4:10 (also Ta'an. 29a) explains this discrepancy by stating that the destruction of the outer walls and of the courtyard started on the 7th of Av while the whole edifice was destroyed on the 10th of Av. R. Johanan declared that he would have fixed the fast on the 10th of Av because it was on that day that the greater part of the calamity happened. The rabbis however decided that it is more fitting to commemorate the "beginning of the calamity."

The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E., on the 10th of Av, according to the historian Josephus (Wars, 6:249–50). This day is still observed as a day of mourning by the Karaites. The Talmud (Ta'an. 29a), however, gives the date as the 9th of Av, which became accepted as the anniversary of both destructions.

The Talmud justifies the 9th of Av as the major day of mourning because a series of calamities occurred on this day throughout Jewish history. The Mishnah (Ta'an. 4:6) enumerates five disasters: (1) on the 9th of Av it was decreed that the Children of Israel, after the Exodus from Egypt, should not enter the Promised Land; (2) the First and (3) the Second Temples were destroyed; (4) Bethar, the last stronghold of the leaders of the *Bar Kokhba war, was captured in 135 C.E.; and (5) one year later, in 136, the Roman emperor Hadrian established a heathen temple on the site of the Temple and rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city which was renamed Aelia Capitolina and which the Jews were forbidden to enter.

The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 is said also to have occurred on the 9th of Av.

The 9th of Av thus became a symbol for all the persecutions and misfortunes of the Jewish people, for the loss of national independence and the sufferings in exile. The massacres of whole communities during the Crusades intensified this association.

Mourning Rites

It is uncertain whether or how the 9th of Av was observed as a day of mourning before 70 C.E. in memory of the destruction of the First Temple. In Zechariah 7:5 such an enquiry is quoted and the prophet's answer is that instead of fasting they should love truth and peace, as a result of which the former days of fast and mourning would become days of joy and gladness (ibid. 8:16–19). The Talmud tells that R. Eliezer b. Zadok, who lived before and after the destruction of the Second Temple, did not fast on the 9th of Av, which was deferred because of the Sabbath to the following day since it was his family's traditional holiday of "wood-offerings" for the altar (Ta'an. 12a; TJ, Ta'an. 4:4; also Tosef., Ta'an. 4:6). This would indicate that fasting on the 9th of Av was observed during the period of the Second Temple too. In any case, fasting on the 9th of Av was observed in the mishnaic period (RH 1:13). Some rabbis advocated permanent abstention from wine and meat in memory of the destruction of the Temple, but this was regarded as an excessive demand (BB 60b; Tosef., Sot. 15:11 ff.). The general rule in the Talmud for the mourning rites of Tishah be-Av is that a person is obliged to observe on it all mourning rites which apply in the case of the death of a next of kin (Ta'an. 30a). These mourning rites have to be observed from sunset to sunset (Pes. 54b). Some mourning rites are already observed during the weeks prior to Tishah be-Av, from the fast of the 17th of Tammuz (see *Three Weeks). On the 1st of Av, the mourning rites are intensified. On the eve of Tishah be-Av, at the final meal before the fast, one may neither partake of two cooked dishes nor eat meat nor drink wine. It is customary to eat a boiled egg at this meal as a symbol of mourning, and to sprinkle ashes on it. Grace after this meal is said individually and silently.

The following rules are observed on the fast of Tishah be-Av: (1) Complete abstention from food and drink. (2) Bathing is strictly forbidden. Washing of the face and hands is permissible for cleansing purposes only (Ta'an. 13a). (3) The use of any oils for anointing and the application of perfumes are forbidden, as is sexual intercourse. (4) It is forbidden to put on footwear made of leather. Therefore the tenth blessing in the Morning Benedictions, originally recited when putting on shoes, is omitted. (5) One must sit either on the ground or on a low stool. (6) It is customary to abstain from work and business because Tishah be-Av was regarded as an inauspicious day. A person who works on the 9th of Av would derive no benefit from his efforts (Ta'an. 30b). (7) The study of Torah is forbidden because it is a source of joy, except for the reading of the Scroll of *Lamentations and its Midrash (Lamentations Rabbah), the Book of Job, the curses in Leviticus (26:14–42), some chapters in Jeremiah (e.g., 39), the aggadic tales in the Talmud describing the destruction of Jerusalem (e.g., Git. 55b–58a), and similar texts.

On the night of Tishah be-Av the pious used to sleep on the floor with a stone as a pillow. Many fasted until noon of the 10th of Av. Meat and wine may not be consumed until the afternoon of the 10th of Av, although some of the mourning rites are lessened from Tishah be-Av afternoon onward based on the belief that Tishah be-Av will again be a holiday since the Messiah will be born then (TJ, Ber. 2:4). Toward the end of the 17th century strict observance of Tishah be-Av also became a mark of adherence to Orthodox rabbinic Judaism, after the pseudo-messiah, Shabbetai *Ẓevi, had abolished the fast of Tishah be-Av and turned it into a day of rejoicing.

In Liturgy and Synagogue Ceremonial

The mourning rites of Tishah be-Av are reflected in the following changes in the synagogue liturgy and usage: (1) the lights in the synagogue are dimmed and only a few candles are lit, as a symbol of the darkness which has befallen Israel. In some rites (Sephardi, Yemenite), it is customary to extinguish all lights immediately after the conclusion of the evening service prior to the reading of the Kinot (Dirges), and the oldest member of the congregation or the ḥazzan then announces: "This year is the… so and so… since the destruction of the Holy Temple." Afterward he addresses the congregation with words of chastisement and repentance in the spirit of the saying: "Each generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt should regard itself as responsible for its destruction." This is answered by wailing and crying. Then the lights are lit again. (2) The curtain of the Ark is removed in memory of the curtain in the Holy of Holies in the Temple which, according to talmudic legend, was stabbed and desecrated by Titus. In some Sephardi synagogues where the Ark normally has no curtain, a black curtain is hung and the Torah scrolls themselves are draped in black mantles. (3) The congregants sit on low benches, footstools, or on the floor as mourners do during the shivah period. (4) The ḥazzan recites the prayers in a monotonous and melancholy tune. (5) Some people change their customary seats in the synagogue. (6) In some congregations the Torah scroll is placed on the floor and ashes put on it while the congregants recite the words "the crown is fallen from our head" (Lam. 5:16), or other appropriate verses (see Sof. 18:7). (7) The prayer service is the regular weekday service, with the following changes: In the evening, the Scroll of Lamentations (Eikhah) is followed by special dirges, Kinot. In the Sephardi rite the Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32, is substituted for the Song of Moses, Exodus 15, which is normally recited after the morning Psalms. After the main part of the morning service Kinot are recited commemorating many of the tragic events in Jewish history (in the Sephardi rite they are recited before the Reading of the Torah). In the Ashkenazi rite these include Sha'ali Serufah be-Esh by R. Meir of Rothenburg (occasioned by the burning of the Talmud in Paris in 1242), Arzei ha-Levanon (commemorating the death of the "Ten Martyrs"), the Odes to Zion, beginning with the famous Ẓiyyon ha-lo Tishali of Judah Halevi and concluding with Eli Ẓiyyon ve-Areha sung to a special melody (see Eli Ẓiyyon). The Sephardi Kinot differ from the Ashkenazi and do not include those mentioned. There is, however, one which is based upon the Four Questions of the Passover Seder, the opening stanza of which is "I will ask some questions of the holy congregation: How is this night different from other nights? Why on Passover eve do we eat maẓẓah and bitter herbs, while this night all is bitterness…?" (8) During the reader's repetition of the Amidah the Anenu prayer is inserted between the seventh and eighth benedictions as on all fast days. In the silent Amidah it is recited in the 16th benediction of the afternoon service and in the Sephardi and Yemenite rites at all services. The Italian rite recites it in the morning and afternoon services. In the afternoon service a special prayer Naḥem is added to the benediction for the restoration of Jerusalem. (9) From the Middle Ages it became customary except among certain Oriental communities not to wear tallit and tefillin during the morning service. (They are considered to be ornaments, and the tefillin in particular are held to be Israel's "crown of glory.") They are worn instead during the afternoon service. (Thus the blessing "who crowns Israel with glory" is omitted from the Morning Benedictions, because it refers to the tefillin.) (10) The morning service as well as the afternoon service include readings from the Torah. In the morning the reading is Deuteronomy 4:24–40, and the haftarah Jeremiah 8:13–9:23; in the afternoon service Exodus 32:11–14 and 34:1–10, and, as haftarah, Isaiah 55:6; 56:8 as on all fast days. The Sephardi haftarah is Hosea 14:2–9. In some rituals the person called up to the Torah says: "Blessed be the righteous Judge" – the verse by which mourners are greeted. (11) Some people sprinkle ashes on their head as a symbol of mourning. In Jerusalem it is customary to visit the Western Wall on Tishah be-Av, where Lamentations and the Kinot are recited by the different communities according to their rites. There are many other local mourning customs. Visits to cemeteries, especially to the graves of martyrs and pious men, were frequent, in order to implore the deceased to intercede for the speedy redemption of Israel. Schoolchildren used to throw seed-burrs of plants at each other in Poland and in Russia. The shofar was blown in Algiers in memory of the ancient fast day ceremonies in the time of the Temple. Women anointed themselves with fragrant oils and perfumes on the afternoon of Tishah be-Av, for they believed that the Messiah would be born (or appear) on this day and it would become a great holiday (Egypt). In the evening after the fast, some people greet each other with the formula: "You shall soon enjoy the comfort of Zion."

In Modern Israel

Beside the special synagogue services for Tishah be-Av, public places of entertainment and restaurants are closed on the eve of Tishah be-Av. The Eikhah dirges and talks about the significance of the day replace music or entertainment on the radio. Newspapers devote articles and pictures to the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, and other holy places. With the reoccupation of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, the problem arose as to whether the mourning practices for the destruction of Jerusalem should be modified. A modified ritual, based upon a passage in the Talmud envisaging a situation in which Jews in Ereẓ Israel would not be oppressed, but the Temple still not rebuilt, is advocated by some.

Reform Judaism and the Ninth of Av

Classical Reform Judaism of the 19th century did not observe the mourning ritual of Tishah be-Av. The rationale for the abolishment of these rites was summed up by David *Einhorn (Olat Tamid, prayer book, p. 100) as follows: "Reform Judaism beholds in the cessation of the sacrificial services, the termination of a special nationality, and the scattering of the Jews among all nations, the fundamental conditions for the fulfillment of their mission among mankind. Only after the destruction of Jerusalem was it possible for Israel to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, a conception which even in the Talmud is intimated in the saying: 'On the day of the destruction of the Temple the Messiah was born.'" In the last decades, however, Reform circles have come to feel that Tishah be-Av should not be ignored but rather that it should be reinterpreted to make it relevant and meaningful in modern times. This conforms to the practice of Reform Judaism with regard to all festivals whose original symbolism was reinterpreted.

The laws and customs of the Tishah be-Av ritual are to be found in Maimonides (Yad, Ta'anit, ch. 5), and in Sh. Ar., OḤ 549–61.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Zunz, Ritus, 88 ff.; Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 128 ff., 229 ff.; H. Schauss, Jewish Festivals (1938), 96–105; J.T. Lewinski, Sefer ha-Mo'adim, 7 (1957), 97–417; S.R. Hirsch, Horeb, a Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances, 1 (1962), 141–50; D. Goldschmidt (ed.), Kinot Ashkenaziyyot (1968).

[Meir Ydit]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.