The Ninth of Av, is an annual fast day in Judaism that falls in July or August. Its name denotes the ninth day (Tish’a) of the Jewish month of Av. The day has been called the “saddest day in Jewish history”. When the ninth of Av falls on the Sabbath, the observance is pushed off until Sunday the tenth (although that day is still referred to as Tish’a B’Av).
DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE
The fast commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Those two events occurred about 656 years apart, but on the same date.
In connection with the fall of Jerusalem, three other fast-days were established at the same time as the Ninth Day of Av: these were the Tenth of Tevet, when the siege began; the Seventeenth of Tammuz, when the first breach was made in the wall; and the Third of Tishrei, known as the Fast of Gedaliah, the day when Gedaliah was assassinated (II Kings 25:25; Jeremiah 41:2).
From Zechariah 7:5, 8:19 it appears that after the building of the Second Temple the custom of keeping these fast-days was temporarily discontinued. Since the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Second Temple by the Romans, the four fast-days have again been observed.
THE FIVE CALAMITIES
According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6), five specific events occurred on the ninth of Av that warrant fasting:
The twelve scouts sent by Moses to observe the land of Canaan returned from their mission. Two of the scouts, Joshua and Caleb, brought a positive report, but the others spoke disparagingly about the land which caused the Children of Israel to cry, panic and despair of ever entering the “Promised Land”. For this, they were punished by God that their generation would not enter the land. Because of the Israelites’ lack of faith, God decreed that for all generations this date would become one of crying and misfortune for their descendants, the Jewish people. (See Numbers Ch. 13–14)
The First Temple built by King Solomon and the Kingdom of Judah were destroyed by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE and the Judeans were sent into the Babylonian exile.
The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, scattering the people of Judea and commencing the Jewish exile from the Holy Land.
Bar Kokhba’s revolt against Rome failed in 135 CE. Simon bar Kokhba was killed, and the city of Betar was destroyed.
Following the Roman siege of Jerusalem, the razing of Jerusalem occurred the next year.
According to the Talmud in tractate Taanit, the destruction of the Second Temple began on the ninth and was finally consumed by the flames the next day on the Tenth of Av.
LATER CALAMITIES ON THE NINTH OF AV
A large number of calamities also occurred on the ninth of Av:
In 1290, King Edward I signed an edict to expel the Jews from England
Sabbatai Zevi, the false Jewish messiah, was born on Tisha B’av in 1626.
In the First World War, Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914, Tisha B’av.
On July 31, 1941 coinciding with Tisha B’Av, under instructions from Adolf Hitler, Nazi official Hermann Göring ordered SS general Reinhard Heydrich to make all the necessary preparations for the Final Solution.
The first transports reached Treblinka and the extermination of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto began on July 23, 1942 .