Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you. Deuteronomy 32:7

 

Minor Holidays in Israel

Tisha B'Av    -    Yom Hashoah or the Holocaust Rememberance Day    -    Yom Yerushalayim or Jerusalem Day    -    the Fast of Gedaliah

Tisha B'Av    ( Ninth day of Av)

Tisha b'Av is not really a feast, it is a fast. Neither is it minor in significance to Jewish life and history.

This is the date of the destruction of both the first and second temples.  It is also the date of several other calamities.    It is regarded by many religious Jews as a curse - a day when something bad might happen.

586 B.C.  The Babylonian army destroyed the Temple
70  A.D.  Titus and the Roman army destroyed the Second Temple
135     Bar Kochba's stronghold fell, ending Jewish independence
1096    Beginning of the first crusades
1290    England expelled its Jews ( see Hereford - History of its Medieval Jewish Community )
1306    France expelled its Jews
1492    All Jews had to vacate Spain under an expulsion order signed by King
Ferdinand and Queen Isabella
1914    Declarations for World War 1
1942    Plans for the Jews' annihilation by Hitler

The ninth of Av ends a three-week season of mourning called Bein Ha'm'tarim .   This term means "between the straits" or "dire straits."  This commences on the 17th of Tammuz ( July 8 in 2001)   which commemorates the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans.   However,  priests, Levites and soldiers held out on Temple Mount for three weeks - until 9th Av.

Tisha B'Av is a fast day, and a man will not put on his tallit until midday.   ( by that time the fire had died down in the Temple )   It is forbidden to wear shoes, bathe, wear perfume, shave, wash clothes or exchange greetings.  Mirrors are traditionally covered and mourners sit on the ground or a low stool just as one would do when mourning the loss of a loved one.  Mourners meals are eaten  ( boiled eggs with bread dipped in ash ).

In the synagogue, the lights are dimmed and the embroidered cover of the Ark is removed, symbolising the destruction of the great curtain that hung in the entrance to the Holy of Holies.   Prayers and scripture readings are chanted in hushed, melancholy terms and Jeremiah 8 v13 to 9 v23 is read along with all of Lamentations.   "My eyes do fail with tears  . . . for the destruction of the daughter of my people  ( Jerusalem ). "  Jeremiah.

Tisha B'Av is not a perpetual fast -  "Thus says the LORD of hosts:  the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth  . .  shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness . . . ."   Zechariah 8 v19.   Messiah will come,  Zechariah 9 v9.  The holy Temple will be rebuilt and the LORD shall be king over all the earth;  Zechariah 14 v9.

The lectionary reading for Tisha b'Av, in addition to the Torah and Haftorah readings is Lamentations - Eikhah.

"How lonely lies the city, that once thronged with people! Once great among the nations, now she is like a widow! ............."

Yom Hashoah    ( Holocaust Remembrance Day )  

Some rabbis prefer not to have a separate day but to commemorate the Holocaust on Tisha B'Av. The date is the aniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. (unlike the Gentile world Holocaust day on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz)

 

Tu B'Av        (The fifteenth of Av)

( Tu comes from the letters tet and vav which have the numerical value of 15)

During Bible times the date marked the beginning of the grape harvest.   Celebrations on this day included young girls dressed in white dancing in the vineyards.   The incident recorded in Judges 19-21, when men from the tribe of Benjamin were to snatch brides for themselves, (from another tribe see Numbers 36 v8) occurred during this festival.   Perhaps this connection is the reason for the popularity of this day for weddings.   It is a popular day for picnics and for singles to get together. ( it is also called the festival of love.)

Some kibbutzim celebrate Hag Hakeramin (the festival of the vineyards) on 15th Av.

Yom Yerushalayim   ( Jerusalem day)

This day celebrates the day in 1967 when Jews were once again able to enter Jerusalem and go to the Western Wall; their most holy place.

 

Yom Ha'atzmaut     ( Israel Independence Day)

 

The Fast of Gedaliah

This recalls the man who took over government and counsel in Jerusalem when the Babylonians took all the important people into exile.  He was assassinated by jealous hotheads who objected to his pragmatic approach to Babylon.  This dashed all hopes of rebuilding the Temple.

Updated 02/12/10

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