This Date in Jewish History: Tisha B’Av

“On the 9th of Av it was decreed that our ancestors would not enter the land.”

(Mishnah Ta’anit 4:6)

In the Mishnah, edited approximately 2,000 years ago, the early rabbis list five specific events which occurred on the 9th of the month of Av. According to their calendar, on today’s date in history the twelve spies sent by Moses to survey the land of Israel returned from their mission. Ten of them brought back a negative report, saying that giants inhabited the land and that the people of Israel would never succeed in overtaking them. Their words created panic and despair in the camp.

Rabbis throughout the generations have chronicled the calamities that befell the Jewish people on the 9th of Av, including many expulsions from host countries and several events of the Shoah, the Holocaust. But the fact that the rabbis of the first century reach back in time to this particular event–God’s punishment of our biblical ancestors– to represent the first Tisha B’Av, is significant. On this date in Jewish history, a minyan (quorum) of Jews caused a fracture in our unity and prevented us from reaching the Promised Land. On this date in Jewish history, we were exiled from the Promised Land, our Temple and our holy city Jerusalem left in ruins.

We can deduce from the rabbinic chronology of tragedy that it is human nature to try to make sense of the random occurrences in our lives. We strive to create order from chaos, to connect the dots of the circumstances that befall us into a linear biography. We assign dates to events in our ancestors’ lives, which are to be commemorated by our progeny, because we need to find purpose in our own lives.



Post a comment