Many believers are familiar with Yeshua’s “Sermon on the Mount” in which he said “blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4), but have you ever thought of these words in connection to Tish’ah b’Av? Tish’ah b’Av (literally: “the ninth of Av”) is a time of fasting and mourning each year that takes place in the Hebrew month of Av, the 5th month in the Hebrew calendar. This year, the ninth of Av falls on the evening of Monday, July 31st and ends on the evening of Tuesday, August 1st.
Even since the days of Zechariah the prophet (about 2,500 years ago), it seems that the people of Israel have had a time of fasting in “the fifth month”, the month of Av (Zechariah 8:19). Each year on Tish’ah b’Av millions of Jews around the world fast and mourn the absence of the Temple on the Temple Mount.
There have been two Temples built on the Temple Mount in history. One was the one built in the days of King Solomon, which was destroyed by the Babylonians in the month of Av in 586 BC (2 Kings 25:8 & Jeremiah 52:12). The other was built in the days of Zerubbabel and later renovated by Herod before being destroyed by the Romans on Tish’ah b’Av in AD 70. With the memory of the destruction of two glorious temples in Jerusalem’s history, along with limited worship of the God of Israel on the Temple Mount these past 2,000 years, Tisha b’Av has taken on great significance in Judaism.
Adding to this sentiment, barely 60 years after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, Tish’ah b’Av became further associated with additional attacks against the Jewish people. A Roman historian tells us that 580,000 Jews were slaughtered at the hands of the Romans in response to a revolt that was suppressed around AD 135. Jewish tradition has it that this revolt was ended on Tish’ah b’Av, at which point, Jews were forbidden by the Romans from entering Jerusalem except one day a year—on Tish’ah b’Av when they mourned the destruction of the Temple and the tragedies that had befallen them.
The mourning on Tish’ah b’Av may very well be what led to non-Jews referring to the Western Wall as “the Wailing Wall.” Jews throughout history have referred to this wall in terms of its location: the wall that stands on the west side of the Temple Mount Complex. However, the Arabs of Jerusalem (in contrast to Muslim powers with less familiarity with Jerusalem) have typically referred to the wall as “Al-Mabka” (the wailing/crying).
The British also referred to the Western Wall by a name suggestive of Tisha b’Av. During the British Mandate the Western Wall came to be referred to by the name familiar in Western Christendom to this day: “The Wailing Wall”.
Even though Tish’ah b’Av comes only once a year, the mourning at the Western Wall is so pronounced that non-Jews refer to the site using a name that references what takes place on this day and because of this day in history. Only in politically (in)correct and deceptive modern rhetoric has the Western Wall come to be referred to by other names in English, such as the Muslim terms used in anti-Israel and anti-Jewish UN resolutions in recent decades. This past year has seen an especially heightened use of Islamic wording for the Wall in UN organizations with little to no reference to its connection to Judaism.
The modern attacks against Judaism and Israel in organizations such as the UN only serve to further drive home the significance of Tish’ah b’Av since this day is associated with some of the most horrific attacks against Jews in history. The Crusades began in the month of Av in 1096 and led to the slaughter of 10,000 Jews in less than a month. The Jews were expelled from England on the 9th of Av in 1290, from France on the 10th of Av in 1306, and from Spain on the 7th of Av in 1492. Germany entered WWI on the 9th of Av in 1914, and approved “The Final Solution” on the 9th of Av in 1941 leading to the perishing of about 6,000,000 Jews (nearly a third of the world Jewry at the time).
In the midst of all of this pain from the past, Rabbi Akiva (who lived to see the destruction of the Second Temple) is known for having laughed while his fellow rabbis wept at seeing the destruction of Jerusalem. When asked by the others why he laughed, he explained that he saw in Jerusalem’s destruction a fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy in Micah 3:12 (in which Micah prophesied that Jerusalem would be “plowed like a field”). He reasoned that if God had been faithful to fulfill Micah’s prophecy in his lifetime and he had seen it with his own eyes, then surely God’s promise to Zechariah to restore Jerusalem was also sure to take place (Zechariah 8).
Rabbi Akiva took comfort in recognizing that if God had been true to His Word before, He’d be true to it again. As believers, we acknowledge this truth even though we didn’t witness the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy firsthand like Rabbi Akiva, because we have faith in the Messiah who has proven to be faithful in all things.
In our day, Jews have the joy of living in a Jerusalem that has been restored to being the capital of the Jewish state of Israel. Today, in spite of the anti-Israel resolutions of the UN and the Islamic agenda in the Middle East, we are fairly free in this most holy city to pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, in Jerusalem, ironically, worshipping the Lord is most limited on the Temple Mount, the one place in which we ought to be most free to worship the Lord.
On Tish’ah b’Av each year in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world, we stop to fast and mourn in recognition that things are not okay until the Temple Mount will be restored as a place of unrestrained worship of the one true God—the God of Israel. As believers, even in our mourning, we may be confident in Yeshua’s assertion 2,000 years ago on the Mount of Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
We welcome you to join us in observing Tish’ah b’Av this year on the evening of Monday, July 31st until the evening of Tuesday, August 1st! As we mourn the lack of freedom to worship the God of Israel on the Temple Mount today, we take comfort in God’s promise to establish Jerusalem as a place for all of the earth to praise Him!
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