9 Av: Tisha B’Av 2020

The day a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon’s Temple by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem, received an other black spot in this year of the CoViD-19 pandemic.

In a few days time, we have the saddest day on our Jewish calendar, on which we fast, deprive ourselves and pray. This year it shall be even sadder than other years because we shall be feeling close to the sick and the dead.

Destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (oil on linen, Francesco Hayez, 1867)

In ordinary times Tisha B’Av on 9 Av is the culmination of the “Three Weeks”, a period of time during which we mark the destruction of the God’s House in Jerusalem. With sadness in our heart, we remember that the First Temple was burned by the Babylonians in 423 BCE (read more) and the Second Temple fell to the Romans in 70 CE. We would love to think a House of God can not be destroyed, but we may have no illusions, the oyev or enemy of God here on earth is allowed to be very strong.

plague
Plague – Image depicting victims of the sixth biblical plague. – Niday Picture Library/Alamy

Also today we can see and feel that there is a strong enemy of man. Centuries ago there was the black Plague which killed lots of people. It was a very infectious disease, caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterium transmitted from rodents to humans by the bite of infected fleas, that produced high fever and swollen places on the body, and often lead to death, especially bubonic plague or the “Black Death“, the pandemic that ravaged Europe between 1347 and 1351, taking a proportionately greater toll of life than any other known epidemic or war up to that time. 

Jews rebelling against Roman rule, believing Shimon bar Koziva [also known as Bar Kokhba (“Son of the Star”)], would fulfil their messianic longings. – The Fall of Betar
The 9th of Av we remember also the Jews of Betar who were butchered when the Bar Kochba revolt (132–135 ce) against Roman dominion in Judaea ended in defeat. For many, the messianic allusion was once more broken*.

In 2020, at sunset on Wednesday, July 29 continuing until the evening of Thursday, July 30, we shall remember those black days in our history. But on this major day of communal mourning we shall hear the many cries of lots of people who also this year shall cry:

Eykhah – Êykhôh = Oh Why – How can it be?

With a unique nusach or nusakh, a special melody the chant shall bring our souls in a melancholic atmosphere of compassion for all the victims of past violence but also of the current CoViD-19 virus slaughter.

As we face great loss and uncertainty this week we shall mourn the many victims of this grim coronavirus. At the same time we shall pray that more people come to see how they have to protect themselves and others with mouth masks or cloth face masks and social distancing, but also by not having too many contacts, keeping the bubble small.

When reciting the Amidah, while standing up, we shall keep our heads down, remembering all those lives. Though we also might cry

Eykhah – Why oh god!

we shall remember how He worked all the time for His people and was with them and is with us. With thankfulness, we shall be grateful for the time and chance given to us sinners to atone without embarrassment.

We do not always understand why Elohim allows certain things to happen. But we are aware of how enosh or mankind often has a lot to do in it. Like today each individual can make his or her own responsibility to take care of the safety measures and as such can avoid spreading the disease. For safety, we also do not meet with each other in real life. But we are happy that we can gather virtually and as such still come to hear from our brethren and sisters how they are coping in these times of greater isolation.

These days of meditation and for several also fasting, let it be a time of quiet talking to God, whilst remembering we must be ashamed of our doubts about God but also remembering that we are not better than Moshe, he was also asking how he could possibly bare all the squabbles of the people on his own.  Thus, it may be understandable that some of our fellow citizens also doubt or cry to God “Why” as Moshe did.

The Hashem Elohim said He would send a famine in the land, not a famine for bread, and not a thirst for water, but rather to hear the Dvar Hashem. Today we notice also by some more people a cry to get to know more about the Divine Creator or the One Behind Everything.

We do know that the prophecies of Amos, as most of those who prophesied during the First Temple period, were presumably directed primarily at the scattering of the 10 tribes by the Assyrians, the conquest of Yehuda and the burning of the First Temple by the Babylonians, the Babylonian exile that was to follow, and the eventual redemption from it.

Like all the stories and prophecies in Scripture, there are the lessons for later generations. We also should know that these temples do not just represent “a building” but represents “the House of God”, the factual or real building but also the spiritual complex or unity. For generations people thought that they needed a real concrete building, but the Elohim does not need such a stone building to reveal Himself to mankind. We notice many have difficulties that they can not have gatherings and prayers in the synagogue. They feel bad and think they would come short to God. They shouldn’t feel guilty for doing God wrong, when they have an active prayer life in their own house. Privately we also can build up a good relationship with God. Perhaps, sometimes it can even become closer than in an open public space. It is a matter of purifying our hearts and being humble before God, offering ourselves as a servant even when we today can not go out so much to preach the Good News.

We are living in such a time that we desperately need to be close to the Elohim Hashem Jehovah. This can be done by reading and studying His set-apart Dvar, trying to come to understand the mysteries.  Let us not forget that at our disposal we have many set prayers, but also can create our own personal prayer, with our own words.

May the Almighty God, the Elohim Hashem Jehovah, be with you and your loved ones and safeguard you and them in these very difficult and trying times in which we are living now!

*

Notes

When the leading Jewish scholar and sage rabbi Akiva ben Yosef saw Bar Kokhba , he declared: “‘A star has come forth from Jacob’ (Numbers 24:17)— Bar Koziva has come forth from Jacob; he is the Moshiach!” R. Yochanan ben Torta told him: “Akiva! Grass will grow on your cheeks and the son of David will not have arrived [i.e., Bar Koziva is not the Moshiach]!”

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Preceding

One Passover tradition asking to provide the less fortunate with foods and help

Dutch version / Nederlandse versie: 9 Av 2020 en Dagen van droefheid

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Additional Reading

  1. As there is a lot of division in Christendom there is too in Judaism
  2. Ancient Jerusalem had not just one temple
  3. When 1 699 676 people worldwide are infected and the number of deaths had totalled 102 734 in 210 countries or territories
  4. Making deeper cuts than some terrorist attacks of the near past
  5. The unseen enemy
  6. From the Old Box: Coughs and sneezes spread diseases
  7. Under-reporting the total number of coronavirus cases
  8. Remembering what happened in the previous influenza pandemic
  9. Staying at home saves lives
  10. If you think you’re too small to be effective
  11. Does God answer prayer?
  12. Make thankfulness happen
  13. Being thankful
  14. Thanking God by thinking of people
  15. Give me a grateful heart

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Related articles

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  5. I know what you’re going to say
  6. Pandemic 3
  7. Lost Within
  8. Social distance
  9. Smartphone contact tracing has failed everywhere
  10. Lynn’s Tuesday Picture Prompt – Week 6 — justabitfurther
  11. Shabbos 138-139 Relevance, context and destruction
  12. Devarim – Timely Torah
  13. Tisha B’Av Lament (Reading Lamentations Rabbah
  14. Rav Avigdor Miller on A Time to Mourn
  15. A Lament for the Detained Children
  16. Borrowed White Dresses: Reframing Tu B’Av
  17. Watch: The Four Fasts: Tzom HaChamishi – Fast of the Fifth Month – Mar 03 2020
  18. Meditations for the Nine Days Part I
  19. Meditations for the Nine Days Part I
  20. Habitation of God
  21. Mourning the Past & Changing the Future
  22. Christians to repent online for antisemitism on Tisha Be’av – The Jerusalem Post

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