Built into the framework of Jewish life, is the daily phenomenon of facing our communal history and experiences. When a Jew opens a volume of the Talmud to study, each page contains the teachings of rabbis and sages who lived thousands of years apart. For the serious Torah student, rabbis who lived 500 years ago are spoken of with the same familiarity as rabbis living today. We have a mitzvah to recall the Exodus from Egypt daily (not to mention the Seder; an entire night devoted to this purpose), and every week Shabbat forces us to stop our busy lives and remember that G-d created, and continues to create, our universe and our reality.
Every one of our holidays brings us the opportunity to remember and re-experience our nations victories and salvations. This is also true of tragedy.
Every year, on Tisha b’Av, the Jewish world pauses to remember a catastrophic event, which set the stage for centuries of persecution. On the ninth of Av, in the year 68, Roman legions set the Temple in Jerusalem ablaze, killing millions and exiling our people from the Land of Israel. So began a new era in Jewish history, an era often dark, and sometimes bright, in which we still find ourselves today.
There is a beautiful story, told about Napoleon Bonaparte during his conquest of Europe in the 1700’s. During one of his campaigns, Napolean happened to pass by a synagogue, and decided to step inside. It was the Fast of Tisha B’av. Upon seeing the congregation seated on the floor, crying and reading mournful poems, he asked why the Jews were so despondent. He learned that the Jews were crying over their destroyed Temple. Thinking this was a recent tragedy, he exclaimed,
“Who did such a thing!? Let them go and rebuild it!”.
“No,no” Napoleon was told. “Their Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem, almost 2,000 years ago!” Napoleon, taken aback, uttered a now famous phrase; “A people that cries over their homeland and Temple after 2,000 years, will surely live to see it rebuilt.” May it happen very soon.
The Fast will begin Saturday night, in Biloxi at 7:38pm and end Sunday night at 8:03.
After Shabbat is over Saturday night, we sit on low stools (or on the floor), and read the Book of Lamentations. Over the day of Tisha B’av, healthy adults refrain from:
Eating and drinking,
Wearing leather footwear, and
In addition, until noon on Sunday, we refrain from sitting on regular chairs. All of these activities, (identical to the observances of “Shiva” when a loved one dies) are meant to help us feel the pain of our people’s hardships. The day should be spent in introspection and remembrance, and we should resolve to do our part to heal a broken world.
Shabbat Shalom and have an easy fast,
Rabbi Akiva Hall