Ninth Av: Answers to our questions

How does God reconcile tragedy? Is there a higher plan? Could terrible events and situations even contain the seeds of a greater good? How to respond to promote God’s work on earth? How to protect yourself from disappointment? How can we encourage others who are going through terrible sickness and destruction?

The annual date of the ninth avi gives us the answers to these questions. The ninth day of Av usually falls in July or August. In 2023, it will be on July 27. Ironically, this day is the day of the most tragic events in Jewish history. Tisha B’Av has become a concept that embodies death, tragedy, exile and destruction. This day is a day of solemn prayers, mourning and meditation. Here are some major calamities that befell our people on the same calendar day:

The first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in the 9th av. in 586 BC. It involved the murder of about 250,000 Jews. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 9 Av 70 BC and then the Jews were scattered all over the world. The expulsion of the Jews from England took place in 990 and they did not return there for about 400 years. Ferdinand and Isabella may have deliberately chosen 9 Av in 1492 as the final date when all Spanish Jews had to leave the country or be executed. Although the massacre of the First World War (which began in 1914 on Av 9) was not specifically directed against the Jews, it paved the way for the changes that led to the Holocaust.

Jeremiah’s Lamentations and God’s Compassion

One of the keys to the redemptive message of Tisha B’Av is the end result of these disasters. After the Babylonians destroyed the first temple, the nation received the long-term prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel – 2,500 years ago – and they will be fulfilled in our lifetime!

“So is My word that proceeds from My mouth – it does not return to Me in vain, but does what pleases Me and does what I sent it for.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Another clue can be found in the book of Lamentations of Jeremiah. This book, traditionally read on the 9th av, is named after the agonizing grief and introspection caused by the Babylonian conquest. Although his name is not mentioned, scholars agree that the author of these five tear-soaked chapters is the prophet Jeremiah.

The first word of the book, Eiha (אֵיכָה), defines its atmosphere. It is a word that emphasizes strong feelings and bitterness. How much more! How unbearable!

“How can this once so crowded city sit alone! He who was great among the nations has become like a widow. A princess among the provinces must do slave labor (Lamentations 1: 1).

“How the Lord in his anger covered the daughter of Zion with clouds! He cast down the beauty of Israel from heaven, and did not consider the footsteps of his feet in the day of his wrath. ”(Lamentations 2:1).

“How tarnished gold has become, how pure gold has become second nature! The stones of the shrine are scattered on all street corners. ”(Lamentations 4:1).

Jeremiah is said to have witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations carries with it an overwhelming sense of loss – mourning both the end of the glorious Temple in Jerusalem and the beginning of forced exile. And yet God adds His goodness, love, and faithfulness to the middle of this book. As if written for all who walk through the valley of the shadow of death, these words are the Lord’s response to a victim suffering in tragedy and in despair. His response refutes the lie that God is untrustworthy, unreachable, or indifferent.

“It is the great bounty of the Lord that we have not run out, for His mercies have not ended: they are new every morning – Your faithfulness is great! The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I trust in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him.” (Lamentations 3: 22-25).

He gives a forehead ornament instead of ashes

In God’s vocabulary, resurrection is a theme that should follow destruction and death. In the main prayer of the Jewish liturgy, the Amida, it is repeatedly proclaimed that God is the one who “gives life to the dead”. Ezekiel’s immortal vision of the valley of dry bones immediately comes to mind. And when you consider the rise of Israel from the ashes of the Holocaust, these prophetic images are simply amazing.

Israel’s history is clearly a story of death and resurrection. The message of Tisha B’Av is not that everything ends in death, destruction and despair. Rather, the God of Abraham is merciful and does not forsake us, instead of judging us as our disobedience deserves. His mercies are renewed every morning!

Even as he warned of Jerusalem’s impending doom, Jeremiah preached about the return from captivity and the rebirth of the land. How could he agonize over impending war, violence, and famine and at the same time believe in a joyful recovery? We could use some of Jeremiah’s prophetic revelations and trust in God’s goodness! Here is an example of notes written in a prison cell:

” Call to me and I will answer you and reveal to you great and secret things that you do not know! … Behold, I will bring healing and health to him, and I will heal them, and I will reveal to them abundant peace and truth. I convert Judas

the captive generation and the captive generation of Israel, and I will rebuild them as in the past.” (Jeremiah 33: 3,6,7).

Our goal is to fulfill the prophecies of Jeremiah

I believe that the Spirit of God so filled and gripped Jeremiah that he proclaimed both sides of God’s character – justice and mercy. Moreover, we are direct heirs and partakers of his prophecies. So we have a special destiny – to fulfill the rest of Jeremiah’s prophecies.

The question is not, “Do we find a reflection of anti-Semitism in Tisha b’Av?” There’s enough of that in the world, and yes, there’s even more. The question is: what can be done to turn the ashes into a forehead ornament? I want my life to be a contribution to the redemption of Israel. The weight of our past surrounds us on all sides. We hear about the dangers of the present hour every hour. It takes no faith, no courage, no love of God for us to be depressed by our past or present oppressors. But trusting God to witness the resurrection of grace is what will change history in the near future.

I once tried to raise a person from the dead. Even though I didn’t succeed, I don’t regret trying at all. I wished with all my heart that he would wake up. But at least I fought with tears in my eyes. The weight of unbelief is a wall that separates our people from the life of God in the Messiah, like the resurrection of the dead. This is no walk in the park. We are facing a wave of fear. It is a torturous, bloody, dirty, sweaty personal and collective spiritual war.

Our response on Tisha B’Av should be, “No way! I am not going to stand by passively while the devil mocks my people, blocking their entrance into the Kingdom of God, when it all started here in Israel in the first place. ” At the same time, this righteous and courageous indignation must be accompanied by a complete radical surrender to God.

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives within you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? Because you have been bought with a price. Therefore glorify God both in your body and in your soul, which you have received from God” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21).

We are being bought; we are sent. We worship our Creator and Master, giving our all because He is worth it.

The resurrection is happening. We are chosen to be its active participants. And for this reason, even on Tisha B’Av we can say:

“You turned my complaint into a round dance for me; you untied the sackcloth from my back and girded me with joy, so that my soul would sing silent praises to you. Lord, my God, I want to thank you forever! ”(Psalms 30: 12-13).

Author – Eitan Shishkoff /


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