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Tishah B'Av

I first learned about Tu B’Av during the summer I began rabbinical school in 1996. On a basic level, I understood it to be one of those minor Jewish holidays that did not have a “real name,” but was referred to simply by its calendrical date – the 15th of Av. Clearly a post-biblical holiday. It was so minor that I could not recall commemorating it at URJ Camp Eisner, the Reform Jewish summer camp which up until that point was the only place in which I had observed Tishah B’Av.

Tishah B’Av – the 9th of Av – was a gloomy day of destruction, on which those who opted to fast at camp...

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The saddest period in the Jewish yearly cycle takes place in the summer months. Beginning with the 17th of Tammuz, which marks the breaching of the Temple walls by the Romans in 70 CE, our tradition calls for increasing mourning, climaxing three weeks later on the 9th of Av (Tishah B’Av), when the Temple was destroyed. What a surprise, then, that falling only a few days after Tishah B’Av, the 15th of Av (Tu B’Av) is described in the Talmud as one of the two happiest days of the Jewish calendar!

According to the Mishnah, during the time when the Temple stood, Tu B’Av (now often...

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I grew up in an active Jewish home, but I never heard of Tishah B’Av until I went to camp. The words Tishah B ‘Av denote a date, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. On this day, the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 586 BCE and the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE. The traditional Jewish community observes Tishah B’Av with fasting and reading the Book of Lamentations.

Biblical theology blames the destruction of the First Temple on the sins of the people. Isaiah and Jeremiah warned the people that if they did not cease from worshipping other gods the One God...

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The expulsion of the Jews from Spain on July 31, 1492, occurred on the same day as the destruction of the first and second Jerusalem Temples. Jews the world over traditionally observe these and other historic tragedies on Tishah B’Av with prayers of mourning and fasting.

Why does the exile from Spain rank as one of the greatest tragedies to befall the Jewish people? Jews had been banished from other European realms, including England and France, but they were few in number and influence. The Jewish population of Spain, more than 550,000 strong, constituted well over half the Jewish...

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Let me start by being very clear: I don’t yearn for a return to sacrificial rites, holy priests, or incense-burning in the Temple. I don’t miss the Temple itself, nor is the Western Wall a particular source of inspiration or empowerment for me.

In fact, some of the inspiring figures of Reform Judaism – Isaiah, Amos, and the first generation of rabbis – were prophets who criticized the corruption and evil that came from the Temple culture. Today, every Reform rabbi knows well the words of Isaiah 1:10-17:

“Hear the word of the Eternal, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the...

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