Editorial - Tisha B'Av The Day of Mourning

In Israel today the anniversary of the destrucion of the First Temple by the Babylonians and of the Second Temple by the Romans is a day of national mourning. It is celebrated this year on August 10th – Tisha B'Av, the Ninth of Av in the Hebrew calendar. It was on the same day, the Ninth of Av, that these destructions took place – the first in 586 BC and the second in 70 AD.

On this day thousands gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the last remnant of the Temple, to pray, (some all through the night), to read the book of Lamentations, and to mourn the desolation of the Holy City. Thousands gather in the synagogues, often sitting on the floor as a sign of grief. And both in Israel itself and in the Dispersion Jewish people fast, and the book of Lamentations is read in the synagogues morning and evening on that heavy day.

It is a sad fact of history that many other disasters occurred on the Ninth of Av as if to imprint on the minds of God's people the significance of that awesome day: in 135 AD the Betar fortress fell to the Romans, ending the Bar-Kokhba rebellion against Rome; in 136 AD the Romans began building their own pagan city on the site of Jerusalem; the Jewish people were expelled from England in 1280, from France in 1306 and from Spain in 1492 – all on Tisha B'Av.

The very focus of Tisha b'Av and what it speaks of is God's judgements according to His Word. It's not as though He hadn't spelled out for His people how He would bless them if they walked in His ways and punish them if they disobeyed His commands.

But Tisha B'Av also brings with it a reminder of the mercy of the Eternal and of His everlasting love for His people. He is always there to restore them to Himself when they return to Him with repentant hearts, and He has provided the way back to Him in the atoning death of the Messiah for their sins and for the sins of the whole world.

The prophet assures them: "For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you" (Isaiah 47:7,8). That's why there is a reading from Lamentations to conclude each Tisha B'Av service: "Turn us back to you, O LORD, and we will be restored; renew our days as of old."