What makes the ancient lessons of Tisha B’Av relevant today



Jeremiah 31:15-16

Thus saith the LORD;

A voice is heard in Ramah,

Lamentation, and bitter weeping,

Rachel weeping for her children;

She refuseth to be comforted for her children

Because they are not.

Thus saith the LORD;

Refrain thy voice from weeping,

And thine eyes from tears;

For thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD;

And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.


Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, when both Holy Temples were set on fire.   During the period of the “Three Weeks” between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av, a period of mourning is observed, commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem and a number of terrible tragedies that befell the Jewish nation on that day.   It is also a time for personal mourning, reflecting upon our own personal hardships and tragedies of those we love.   

On the 9th of Av:

1313 BCE:  The Jewish people believed the false report of the spies and G-d prevented that generation from entering the Land of Israel, allowing the next generation, their children, to enter the land.

423 BCE:  The Babylonians destroyed the First Temple.   Five hundred thousand Jews were killed and millions sent into exile.

In 70 CE:  The Romans destroyed the Second Temple.   Two million Jews died and one million more were exiled from Jerusalem.

In 133 CE:  The Bar Kochba revolt in Judea, where the Jews rebelled against Roman oppression, resulted in defeat.   Emperor Hadrian’s army crushed the rebellion, and the Jewish rebels were brutally murdered.

Reading about these events is painful even though they happened over two thousand years ago.   But to use an archaic 1960’s expression, not everybody can relate.   Whether it was baby boomers, the self-described “Me” generation, or millennials, young people have difficulty establishing a connection with ancient events that are remote and seem to have no relevance to daily life.  

But for Jews, the relevancy to ancient events persists and is prescient if we learn from them.   Throughout history, it is our struggles against persecution from our enemies that have kept the Jewish people together.   We were the victims of senseless hate crimes.   We are incredibly fortunate to live in the United States of America, a country with a Constitution and founding principles that welcomes and protects our right to be religiously observant (or not) and speak our minds freely (or withhold comment).   

It is at times of relative peace, prosperity and happiness when radicals, dissatisfied with the status quo and traditional values that sustain our society, begin to fret and seek change.   Unable to clearly define what change they want they remain unfulfilled and cannot resolve internal conflicts.    Often, they create crises out of minor difficulties.   Chaos and riots have been a feature of campus life since the 1960s.   But radical progressivism is now fully integrated into many of our educational and religious institutions, and divides groups within the Jewish community as well.   In the video “Tisha B’Av – A Personal Tragedy”, Rabbi Heshy Forster says:  “When people don’t get along with one another that causes destruction in the world.”

It saddens me that the secular and Reform Jewish movements have lurched so far to the left that they have embraced and act upon a sweeping immoral progressive agenda that is in direct opposition to traditional Judaism.   One of the issues they support is unlimited abortion on demand.   This is one reason the Jewish community is fragmented and cannot heal.   Orthodox Jews do not abide by unrestricted abortion, and most Orthodox rabbis consider abortion akin to murder.   Over the past 50 years, Reform Jews have relaxed their views and became extremists on this and many issues.   We are distracted by disputes within the Jewish community.   What will happen if there is ever a calamity from without? 

Our political leaders have not grown wiser.   They continue to allow unborn babies to be killed for convenience and the elderly and disabled are killed because they are not convenient.   The least powerful among our society have no rights.   They are destroyed.   The least powerful in ancient Israel had no rights.   They were destroyed.   We still have much to learn from ancient history, and that is why those lessons from Tisha B’Av are relevant today. 


Copyright 2018 by Bonnie Chernin.