This Shabbat is the 9th of Av in the Hebrew calendar, the anniversary of the destruction of both of our Holy Temples in Jerusalem, in 586 BCE by the Babylonians and in 70 CE by the Romans. It is marked by a day of intense mourning, with a 25-hour fast from sunset until the emergence of the stars the next night. It is considered the most significant fast day in the Jewish year aside from Yom Kippur, and similar to Yom Kippur, everyone above bat/bar mitzvah age is required to fast (unless one’s life would actually be endangered by doing so).
This year, the 9th falls on Shabbat. Consequently the observance of the fast day is postponed to the 10th – Saturday night and Sunday. Consistent with our practice of observing the twilight period between sunset and the emergence of the stars as belonging both to the previous and following day, there will be a period of about 50 minutes Saturday evening when Shabbat and the fast overlap. At 8:25 pm we must start fasting and observing the other restrictions of Tisha Be’av (washing, “annointing” & sex), but we also continue to observe Shabbat until 9:13 pm. We remove leather shoes the moment Shabbat ends.
(Because we are fasting, we don’t do Havdallah on Saturday night. Instead, we mark the end of Shabbat with the five words, “Barukh Hamavdil bein kodesh lechol” and say only the blessing on the candle. When the fast ends Sunday night we say Havdallah but only using the cup of wine/grape juice, omitting the spices and the candle.)
Tradition teaches that the First Temple was destroyed because the Jews were committing the three most severe offences: murder, idolatry, and adultery. The Second Temple was destroyed because the Jews were plagued by baseless hatred: they weren’t respected each other’s right to have differing opinions.
It is not surprising that for Judaism, the interruption of Temple services would be the result of a lack of proper treatment of our friends. One cannot dream of having a close relationship with God without truly caring about all of God’s creatures.
Tisha Be’av itself must be observed with this in mind. The fasting, tears and prayers are meaningless if they don’t serve as a wake-up call. Tisha Be’av gives us the opportunity to stop everything else and focus on how we, on individual, communal and societal levels, desperately need to improve.
Let’s make it count!