Can you believe that Israel has an annual day of mourning? What is it all about? And I don’t mean Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement.
Tisha Be’av is a fast day that commemorates the destruction of both temples--Solomon’s and Herod’s. On both occasions, the people were thrown into exile. The Jews scattered abroad. No more temple worship. Thus, Tisha Be’av is the saddest day of the Jewish year.
This year Tisha Beav came on July 29th and 30th.
The traditional observances are fasting, sitting on the ground, refraining from washing, sexual activity and greeting people. Plus, there must be repentance of sins that the Jews say brought about the destruction of both temples.
In an article in the Jerusalem Post two weeks ago, Benji Singer says he thinks that due to the Corona Virus it is easier to understand what Tisha Beav is all about. That’s because, he says, we are experiencing a breakdown of our economy, financial security and relationships. We now have the yearning to return to the life we previously had.
In Israel, restaurants and places of entertainment are required to close on the eve of Tisha Beav, and many recreational activities are shut down.
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THE FIRST TEMPLE DESTROYED—King Solomon’s….which lasted until 587-586 B. C. Then, all but the poorest of people were taken into captivity, not in vehicles but walking the whole trip to Babylon.
We have a picture and an explanation of that temple destruction and the razing of Jerusalem in the Book of Lamentations. Here is one quote:
How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become…
She that was a princess among the provinces…
Jerusalem sinned grievously,
So she has become a mockery…
The Lord has become like an enemy…
- Lamentations 1:1; 2:5
Israel’s God was one who cared deeply. Yet it was hard for those Israelites to believe that. Again, in Lamentations we read:
- Israel’s God was sick of Israel’s hypocrisy: “The Lord has scorned his altar.”
- Israel’s God let Israel be put in ruins: “The Lord has become like an enemy.”
- Israel’s God had warned Israel through the prophets: “The Lord has done what he purposed.”
THE SECOND TEMPLE--King Herod’s, destroyed by the Romans in 70 A. D.
Jesus worshipped, taught and preached in its courts of Herod's temple. He also predicted its destruction, decrying the “wicked and adulterous generation” in which He lived, especially the cities. (Of course, the rejecting Jews paid no attention.)
So, the two temples of Jerusalem…destroyed because of hypocrisy and wickedness. Both are mourned. Yes, both ancient catastrophes are still prominent on the Jewish calendar and unforgettable in the minds of religious Jews today in Israel.
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So, modern Israel uses the Book of Lamentations for its observance of Tisha Be’av—an old, old book of laments for its modern day of mourning. What a thing of pathos!
“My eyes are spent with weeping;
My stomach churns;
My bile is poured out on the ground
because of the destruction of my people,
because infants and babes faint
in the streets of the city. (2:11)
“I am one who has seen affliction
under the rod of God’s wrath;
He has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light…
He has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation….
“My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
therefore I will hope in him.’”
- From Lamentations 2 & 3 (NRSV)
Right there…abruptly…the remembrance of things past comes to the prophet; the character of the Lord is seen. Even though He has appointed the Babylonian power to demolish their place and His place—Jerusalem--Jeremiah, all at once, remembers how the Lord has shown His love....so many times....in so many different ways.
Israel has suffered greatly in the past hundred years….GREATLY. But we are now seeing His steadfast love and faithfulness and its beautiful effect upon His Chosen Ones in the Holy Land of Promise.
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