Blessings in the Messiah Yeshua,
The Temple Destroyed
Our eldest son Jonathan broke a glass under his foot last month as he stood beneath a huppah, taking Nancy to be his wife. This Jewish tradition has several explanations, but the most common one is that the breaking of the glass represents an expression of sorrow over the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. The noise of the breaking glass is supposed to be a warning to man that even in the most joyous moments of life, such as a wedding, there are always sobering thoughts: trials come, temptations abound, tragedies happen. But, as believers in the Messiah Yeshua, we know that while the afflictions of the righteous may be many, the LORD delivers him out of them all ([biblegateway passage=”Ps. 34:19″ display=”Ps. 34:19″]). We also know that, “…all things work together for good to those who love God…” ([biblegateway passage=”Rom 8:28″ display=”Rom 8:28″]).
Two Temples Destroyed
There were actually two Temples in Jerusalem destroyed on the very same date on the Jewish calendar: the Ninth of Av, also known as Tisha B’Av. For this reason, Tisha B’Av became a day of mourning, fasting, and great solemnity. The origin dates back to the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC by the Babylonians. The “fast of the fifth month,” (the month of Av), is mentioned in Zechariah 7:3 with the question: “Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?”
Tisha B’Av is the only event on the Jewish calendar during the summer months. It is second only in importance to Yom Kippur as a fast day, but is actually one of four minor fasts of the Jewish year. These fasts, of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months (See [biblegateway passage=”Zech. 8:19″ display=”Zech. 8:19″].) were probably instituted at the time of the Babylonian Exile. While they are not “holy” days, commanded in the Torah, they have lessons to teach us about God, and about His heart for Jerusalem.
Each of the minor fasts is associated with the siege and fall of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar. Why the great sadness? The Temple in Jerusalem was much more than a building to God’s people. It was the center of Jewish life, and of a religion of sacrifices and a priesthood. Destruction of the Temple meant dispersal from the Land of Israel. God had made some precious promises to Solomon about “His house” which made the tragic dispersal more poignant: “Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” ([biblegateway passage=”2 Ch. 7:15-16″ display=”2 Ch. 7:15-16″]).
In spite of this assurance of blessing, God’s people turned away from Him, and suffered the consequences. God is Just. Sin is punished. Concerning the fall of Jerusalem we read: “And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy” ([biblegateway passage=”2 Ch. 36:15-16″ display=”2 Ch. 36:15-16″]).
God gave His children many opportunities to repent. When they did not, their Temple was destroyed and God’s people, as well as His Divine Presence, were sent into exile.
The Saddest Day of the Year
In a series of what some might call “coincidences,” many of the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people have occurred on the same day: Tisha B’Av. This makes the Ninth of Av a national day of mourning, commemorating all the horrors suffered by God’s Chosen People over the past 2,500 years. The following is a partial list of historical events that occured on Tisha B’Av:
1200 BC The children of Israel are condemned to wander 40 years in the wilderness because they chose to believe the spies who brought back a bad report.
586 BC Babylonians sack and destroy Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple.
70 AD Romans destroy the Second Temple.
135 AD Betar fortress falls to the Romans, ending the Bar-Kokhba rebellion.
136 AD Romans begin building their own pagan city on the site of Jerusalem, forbidding Jews from entering.
1096 AD The First Crusade begins, destroying Jewish communities in Europe.
1290 AD The Jews are expelled from England.
1306 AD The Jews are expelled from France.
1492 AD The Jews are expelled from Spain.
1648 AD Thousands of Polish Jews are massacred by Khmelnytsky’s hordes.
1882 AD Pogroms sweep Russia.
1914 AD World War I breaks out.
1942 AD Nazis convene at Wannsee, Germany and finalize their plans for the destruction of world Jewry. Mass deportation of the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the concentration camp at Treblinka occurs.
1994 AD The JCC in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is bombed killing 86 and wounding 300.
2005 AD Disengagement from the Gaza Strip begins.
Tisha B’Av Customs
The observance of Tisha B’Av is similar to the observance ofYom Kippur. No eating or drinking for 24 hours. No washing, bathing, shaving or wearing cosmetics. No wearing leather shoes (considered “luxury”). No engaging in sexual relations. Worshippers sit on the floor or on low stools. No studying Torah (considered a joy). The Torah ark is usually draped in black.
Tisha B’Av actually culminates three weeks of semi-mourning, since three weeks earlier on the 14th day of Tammuz, the walls of Jerusalem were breached, before the actual destruction on the Ninth of Av. Therefore, during this time period, there are no weddings, no new clothing worn, and no joyful celebrations of any kind. These customs are probably much more prevalent in Israel than in the U.S.
On the evening of Tisha B’Av and the next morning, observant Jews gather in synagogues to chant lamentations and recite appropriate hymns and prayers. In Israel, many Jewish people visit the Kotel, the Western Wall, the only remaining part of the Temple in Jerusalem. A common expression concerning the entire month of Av is: ” When Av comes in, all merriment must go out.” There is truth in Solomon’s statement found in Ecclesiastes 7:4: “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
The portion of the Holy Scriptures read by all observant Jews on Tisha B’Av is the Book of Lamentations, found between Jeremiah and Ezekiel in your Bible. The author of Lamentations is assumed to be Jeremiah. Written in 587 BC, following the destruction of Jerusalem, it is a poem of sorrow and grief over not only the prophet’s beloved city, but also over the suffering that resulted from the sin of God’s people. The twenty-two verses of each chapter of Lamentations begin with the corresponding twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, making this Book an acrostic poem.
The five dirges in the Book of Lamentations are sometimes put into the mouth of the “daughter of Zion,” a personification of the devastated Jerusalem and the people of Israel. “Zion spreads out her hands, but no one comforts her; the LORD has commanded concerning Jacob that those around him become his adversaries; Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them.” ([biblegateway passage=”Lam. 1:17″ display=”Lam. 1:17″])
Despite the recurring theme of the devastation caused by sin, and God’s anger over that sin, Lamentations sends forth a glorious ray of hope: God is a God of mercy and compassion who forgives His people when they turn to Him in repentance: “For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies” ([biblegateway passage=”Lam. 3:31-32″ display=”Lam. 3:31-32″]). “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” ([biblegateway passage=”Lam. 3:22-23″ display=”Lam. 3:22-23″]) “Turn us back to You, O LORD, and we will be restored; renew our days as of old.” ([biblegateway passage=”Lam. 5:21″ display=”Lam. 5:21″]) (This familiar corporate plea for restoration concludes every weekly Torah service.)
Mourning and Soul Searching
There are seven weeks from Tisha B’Av to Rosh HaShanah (Yom Teruah). In traditional Judaism, these include fifty days of introspection and soul-searching, culminating with the month of Elul, a final month of preparation before the fall High Holidays. The seven weeks have a name — “The Seven Messages of Consolation” — based on texts from the Book of Isaiah. During the first Shabbat following Tisha B’Av, known as Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of Comfort, the reading opens with Isaiah 40:1-2: “Comfort, yes, comfort My people! says your God. Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”
The Bible tells us that there is “a time to mourn… a time to weep…” ([biblegateway passage=”Ecc. 3:4″ display=”Ecc. 3:4″]). The Messiah Yeshua said: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). NOW, the Summer of 2011, is the time to mourn over the sin of our nation. God has become irrelevant. So has marriage. This became shockingly evident to us as we attended Jamie’s 45th High School reunion in June. God seemed to play no part in the lives of most people in Westchester County, N.Y. Marriage?
Many of Jamie’s classmates had “tried” marriage, and since it didn’t work out, they went to plan “B”: living with a “significant other.” No commitment. No concept of covenant. God weeps. So should we.
True believers in the Messiah Yeshua should also mourn over the prevalent pro-Arab, anti-Israeli stance of much of the Church. Since many denominations have historically adopted the doctrine of Replacement Theology (the Church has replaced the Jewish people in the eternal plan of God), the logical outcome is to take a pro-Arab position on Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The Brit Hadasha, however, makes it abundantly clear that God has not cast aside His people Israel. They are beloved for the sake of the fathers. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” ([biblegateway passage=”Rom. 11:1, 28-29″ display=”Rom. 11:1, 28-29″])
Mourning over Zion
Is God mourning over Jerusalem today? We think He is. Jerusalem is still the city closest to His heart. Psalm 48 calls it the “city of our God” and the “city of the great King.” World leaders are scheduled to vote sometime in early September, 2011 concerning dividing God’s city, making East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian State. The nations, especially the U.S., as represented by President Barack Obama, are agreeing with Palestinian demands for the ratification of a Palestinian state encompassing the pre-1967 borders. If this happens, Israel would be cut in half, the Golan Heights would be taken away, leaving Israel a mere 9 miles wide at one part, allowing enemies to easily send bombs into Israel. Israel would have to give away Christian and Jewish holy sites to radical Muslims. Half of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, Old Jerusalem, and the Garden Tomb would be handed over to a Hamas-Fatah terrorist alliance.
Jerusalem has become the “very heavy stone for all peoples” spoken of by the prophet Zechariah ([biblegateway passage=”12:3″ display=”12:3″]). Nothing that happens at the U.N. this September will come as a surprise to God! The world’s stage is being set for the return of the Messiah, and none of us knows what dark days lie ahead before His glorious appearing. Until then, we must join our Savior in mourning over Jerusalem, and over His brethren, the Jewish people: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD’!” ([biblegateway passage=”Luke 13:34-35″ display=”Luke 13:34-35″])
We believe that it is God’s will this month of Av to PRAY, MOURN and FAST- for a people fighting their national survival, a people who want to live in peace,a people who welcome peace-loving Arabs into their society and government, a people who cherish their heritage and have a history 2,500 years of praying for a return of Zion, a city that allows people of all faiths to preserve and enjoy their holy sites, a people who don’t understand why they are hated, when they are among the most humanitarian nations in the world, a people experiencing traumatic daily rocket attacks from Arab “neighbors,” and a nation with few friends in the world—except those who know and love the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and understand the end-time calling of the Church to comfort and support the Jewish people and their ancient claim to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.
Zechariah 8:19 tells us that the fast of Tisha B’Av in the fifth month will one day become a joyful feast. Our God turns mourning into joy. A day is also coming when there will be a new, rejuvenated Jerusalem. As the psalmist proclaims, “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” ([biblegateway passage=”Ps. 30:5″ display=”Ps. 30:5″]). After death comes resurrection. Yeshua proved it. He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” ([biblegateway passage=”Jn. 2:19″ display=”Jn. 2:19″]). He was speaking of the temple of His body. We are His body today—a temple made of living stones. May our “temple” be filled with the praises of God, resurrection life, unity in the Ruach HaKodesh and above all holiness. May the Body of Messiah be both zealous over Zion, and zealous over the House of God, being watchmen on the walls, fighting the good fight of faith. God is for us! Let each of us be—”The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord…’ ” ([biblegateway passage=”Is. 40:3″ display=”Is. 40:3″]). Not resting nor holding our peace—for Zion’s sake—
Neil and Jamie