The tragedies that occurred on the 17th of Tammuz
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Tisha B'Av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates many tragedies throughout Jewish history most significantly, the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE by the Babylonians and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. On Tisha B'Av all pleasurable activity is forbidden. The Scroll of Lamentations, which mourns the destruction of Jerusalem, is read in synagogues, followed by the recitation of kinnot, liturgical dirges that lament the loss of the Temple and Jerusalem. The day has become a day of mourning for all tragedies that have occurred to the Jewish people, not exclusively the tragedies associated with the month of Av. Therefore, some kinnot recall the murder of the Ten Martyrs, pogroms in Medieval Jewish communities during the Crusades, and the genocide of European Jewry in the Holocaust.
According to the Mishnah (Ta'anit 4:6), we fast on the 9th of Av because of the following events that took place on that day:
Before the Israelites entered the land of Israel, they sent spies to scout out the land. When the spies brought back a negative report, the Israelites cried on the 9th of Av, demonstrating a lack of faith in God. This generation was therefore punished and not allowed to enter the land. God decreed this would become a day of misfortune forever (Numbers 13-14).
The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. According to the Talmud, it began to burn on the Ninth of Av and continued through the Tenth.
The Second Temple, built by Ezra and Nehemiah, was destroyed by the Romans. This resulted in the scattering of Judea and began the Jewish exile from the Holy Land.
The Romans suppressed the Bar Kokhba revolt and killed over 500,000 Jews, destroying the city of Betar, on July 8th, 135 CE, or the 9th of Av, 3892.
Turnus Rufus, Roman commander who crushed the Bar Kokhba revolt, further demolished the site of the Temple and its surrounding area (135 CE).
In addition to the Five Calamities listed above, throughout Jewish history many tragic events have been associated with Tisha B'Av, including:
The tragedies that occurred on the 17th of Tammuz
The expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290
The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492
The outbreak of World War I in 1914, which overturned many Jewish communities
Heinrich Himmler received approval for "The Final Solution" on the Ninth of Av in 1941. As a result, the Holocaust began, killing a third of the world's Jewish population
The mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka in 1942
In addition to the prohibitions of the Three Weeks and the Nine Days, these additional prohibitions are in place on Tisha B'Av:
The seudah hamafseket is the meal eaten right before the fast, consisting of a hard boiled egg and a piece of bread dipped into ashes. Once the fast begins, work should be avoided. After the meal, once the fast begins, kinnot are read with dimmed lighting. It is customary to modify normal sleeping arrangements to be slightly less comfortable on Tisha B'Av night. Tefilin is not put on for morning services, Shacharit, on Tisha B'Av. Both Tzitzit and Tefilin are put on with blessings at afternoon services, Mincha.
The Shabbat after Tisha B'Av is called Shabbat Nachamu, "the Sabbath of Comforting." We read the Haftarah from the Book of Isaiah, which speaks of comforting the Jewish people for all their suffering. This is the first of the seven Haftarot that express the theme of redemption, leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.