Today is Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. On this day, we remember a list of catastrophes that occurred on this date, especially the destruction of the 1st Holy Temple in 423 BCE, and five centuries later on the same day, the destruction of 2nd Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Each time the Temple was left in ruins, the Jews were exiled from the land, first by the Babylonians and later by the Romans in the year 70 CE. The Roman Revolt, and the continuous revolts that followed, resulted in the greatest catastrophes in Jewish history prior to the Holocaust. Some say that more than a million Jews were killed, and the remaining Jewish population of Judea (Israel) was exiled, most of them sold into slavery.
This is the beginning of the Diaspora, the forced expulsion of our people from our land that continued until 1948, when Jewish authority in the sovereign state of Israel was returned. From the time of our expulsion until 1948, our people dreamed and prayed and longed to return to the Land of Israel.
In a sense, that longing begins with this week’s Torah portion, Va’Etchanan (though the events in this Book of Torah took place more than 1500 years before the destruction of the 2nd Temple!). The chapter begins with Moses telling the Israelites, “I pleaded with God…let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan.” This was the first report of thousands of years of pleading by our people to go to our Promised Land.
The timing of reading this chapter in temple, and commemorating Tisha B’Av, and the war in Israel is especially poignant. How do we observe Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning, during these days of war, when Israel is fighting to defend our people?
JJ Goldberg, a frequent writer for The Forward, offered this thought for this year’s Tisha B’Av: “…the best way to reach across that empty space and fold myself into the of the Jewish community, transcending the rancor and reaching back over the generations, is by prayer…When we speak together in unison, we become joined in spirit in a way that transcends differences of the moment.”
I agree with the power of prayer, and I urge you to join with our people around the world and pray for the welfare of Israel sometime on Tuesday, Tisha B’Av: These prayers are from our prayerbook, Mishkan T’fila:
A PRAYER FOR PEACE
May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace will embrace the whole world. Then nation will not threaten nation, and humankind will not again know war. For all who live on earth shall realize we have not come into being to hate or to destroy. We have come into being to praise, to labor, and to love. Compassionate God, bless the leaders of all nations with the power of compassion. Fulfill the promise conveyed in Scripture: I will bring peace to the land, and you shall lie down and no one shall terrify you. I will rid the land of vicious beasts and it shall not be ravaged by war. Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream.
Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea. And let us say: Amen.
A PRAYER FOR THE STATE OF ISRAEL
Avinu She-ba-sha-ma-yim, Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel: Bless the State of Israel, with its promise of redemption. Shield it with Your love; spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Guide its leaders and advisors with Your light and Your truth. Help them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who defend our Holy Land. Deliver them; crown their efforts with triumph. Bless the Land with peace, and its inhabitants with lasting joy. And let us say: Amen.