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Tisha B'Av: Mourning Destruction but Hoping for Redemption

The fast of Tisha B'Av, "saddest" day in the Jewish calendar, begins Monday eve at sundown. Temple's fall mourned, rebuilding awaited.
By Arutz Sheva Staff
First Publish: 8/8/2011, 4:03 PM

The Western Wall on Tisha B'Av
The Western Wall on Tisha B'Av
Israel news photo

The fast of Tisha B'Av, the "saddest" day in the Jewish calendar, begins Monday evening at sundown and ends Tuesday night.

In Jerusalem, the fast begins Monday at 7:35 pm, ending the following night at 8:01 pm.

Watch the Tisha B'Av prayers at the Kotel online.

Its name literally means "the ninth day of [the Jewish month of] Av," the date of some of the gravest tragedies to have befallen the Jewish People. Tisha B'Av is a day of lamentations that first and foremost marks the anniversaries of the destruction of the First and Second Temples by the armies of Babylon and Rome, respectively.

Tisha B'Av Laws
The Sages enacted Yom Kippur-like restrictions on Tisha B'Av, including no eating (minimal wetting of hands and eyes is allowed), drinking, washing, use of cosmetic oils, and marital relations. Leather shoes are not worn, and even Torah study -- a major source of Jewish joy -- is restricted to topics connected with the Destruction of the Temples, prophecies of rebuke, Tisha B’Av, and the like. Sitting on chairs is not permitted until the afternoon, Tefillin and Tallit are donned only at the mincha (afternoon) service.  

The hour before the onset of Tisha B'Av is marked by a “mourning meal,” consisting only of a hard-boiled egg dipped in ashes, bread, and water. It should be eaten while sitting on low stools or on the floor, with each person sitting alone in a different corner of the room.

The regular evening prayer service is followed by the reading aloud, in a traditional mournful melody, of Eichah, Lamentations.

Beside the destruction of the Temples, Jewish history is replete with a list of calamities that tok place on this date, including the following:

•G-d decreed, following the Sin of the Spies as recounted in Numbers 13-14, that the Children of Israel would not be allowed to enter the Land of Israel until the entire generation had died out. 
•The fall of Beitar, the last fortress to hold out during the Bar Kochba revolt in the year 135 C.E., to the Romans.
•A year later, the Temple area was plowed over, marking the last milestone of national Jewish presence in our homeland until the modern era.
•The Jews of Spain were expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492.
•World War I erupted in 1914, setting the stage for World War II and the Holocaust.
•Mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka death camp began on Tisha B'Av eve of 1942.
•The Jews of Gush Katif spent their last legal day in their homes in Tisha B'Av of 2005, and were expelled three days later.

Despite the sadness of the day, the saddest part of the regular daily prayers - tachanun - is not recited, in the anticipation of the final joyous Redemption that will render Tisha B'Av a day of joy.

In fact, among the Yishuv Hayashan -- the residents of Jerusalem before the influx of Zionists -- there were those who whitewashed their houses on the afternoon of the fast, so that it would be freshly cleaned and ready to welcome the Messiah.

Many tens of thousands of people spend Tisha B’Av, or parts of it, at the Western Wall – which, together with the Temple Mount, is the sole remnant of the Second Temple. Visitors spend hours mourning the destruction, the Exile of the Divine Presence and the unredeemed state of the Nation of Israel by reciting and studying the traditional Tisha B’Av lamentations and the Scroll of Eichah (Lamentations). The police announced that over a thousand policemen are stationed in the area of the Old City as so many Arabs are on the streets and on the Temple Mount for Ramadan.

Arutz Sheva brought several of the Tisha B'Av programs in Israel and the USA  in articles on Sunday and Monday morning, including one that is taking place in 16 countries, so that readers might finalize plans.

Here are some new ones and a review of others in Israel:

Mount Scopus "Eicha" Reading
The Ramot,Jerusalem synagogues conduct a yearly reading of Megillat Eicha, Jeremiah's Lamentations as he witnessed the destruction of the First Temple, at the ampitheatre on Mount Scopus, overlooking the Temple Mount. The program will start at 8:15 P.M. Monday night. The organizers bring with them wine and kiddush cups to greet the Messiah. In past years, those present continued to stay at the site, singing slow songs of Redemption long after the reading was over.

March around the Old City (make sure time change is noted)
The traditional Women in Green Tisha B'Av March around the Old City will begin at 11 P.M. due to Ramadan (Muslim month of fasting till dark, with nightly festivities as food is served in the area) with evening prayers and the reading of Eicha starting at 9:45 P.M. on Agron Street opposite the US Consulate, followed  by the march towards the New Gate, Damascus Gate, Lions' Gate, and culminating at Dung Gate near the Western Wall (Kotel). Thousands of people generally participate in the march. Transportation back to the city is guaranteed.

Transportation to the Kotel, Rachel's Tomb, Machpelah Cave
The Egged bus cooperative will be adding bus lines on Monday and Tuesday to the Kotel. Buses will leave the Wall as late as 2 A.M. Tuesday morning, and resume again four hours later. In addition, an Egged shuttle service will take passengers every ten minutes from the Carta parking lot outside Jaffa Gate to the Wall.

Bus service to Rachel’s Tomb, south of Jerusalem, and to the Machpelah Cave in Hevron, will also be reinforced.

What Else to Do:
Israeli law forbids the opening of restaurants, clubs and theaters on Tisha B’Av. However, various events, organized for both religious and secular, will be held. They include 25 centers of discussion on Monday night around the country, films in the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem until 2 A.M., and lecture programs on Tuesday morning at various study centers all over the country. Jerusalem offers English lectures, most starting at 10 A.M. at Matan, 30 Rashbag Street, at Darche Noam (Shapell College), 5 Beit Hakerem St., Beit Knesset Dati Leumi on Chai Taib Street  in Har Nof, Pardes Institute at 29 Pierre Koenig Street, to name a few.