The Hebrew month of Av begins Sunday night, July 7th, and Jews will mourn through the final nine day of The Three Weeks of grief that began with the Fast of Tammuz and end with Tisha b’Av—the day commemorating the destruction of the Jewish temples.
All public transportation will be silenced, all restaurants will remain closed in Jerusalem the evening of July 15th as the sun sets. The Hebrew day of great tragedies, Tisha b’Av, will begin at sundown. In remembrance of the destruction of both the First and Second Temple on the 9th of Av hundreds of years apart, tens of thousands of Jews will gather at the Western Wall to pray and petition the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Jewish hearts around the world will long in unison for the future Temple, the one to be established when the Messiah comes.
The Temple Mount
These next weeks, Jews look toward the Temple Mount with even more longing than normal. Israel has technically controlled the Temple Mount since the Six-Day War in 1967, but the Waqf, a Muslim council, manages the site. The Temple Mount is noticeably dominated by the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Israeli law is supposed to protect free access to the site, but the Israeli government enforces a ban on any non-Muslim prayer on the site in order to avoid Muslim riots.
Many Jews look forward to the day when the Messiah will come, when the Temple will once again rise up on the Temple Mount. A video by The Temple Institute shows a little boy and girl playing on the beach and building a replica of the Temple in the sand. The end caption reads, “The Children Are Ready.” The video had more than 400,000 views on YouTube after it was released last year.
Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute has long promoted this as a time of expectation for the Temple, rather than a time of mourning. This year in an article on the Fast of Tammuz and the beginning of the Three Weeks of mourning, Rabbi Richman wrote recently in The Jerusalem Post:
The fabricated tears of Tamuz are the romanticization of pain; being comfortable with the pain because it is what we are used to. This is what Maimonides alludes to. We can become so stuck in a place, so part of the cycle, that there is no way out of it.
But the whole idea of Tamuz is for us to confront those idolatrous forces within our own psyche. Parts of the Jewish mindset have been taken over. We have been lobotomized by the pagan mindset of weeping over Tamuz. The verse in Ezekiel [8:14] alludes to the weeping over our own lives, the tragic aspects of our lives, because self-pity feels so good. So we do it again and again, year after year.
Mourning for the Temple is not about crying over the past, or obsessing about something we cannot change; it is about becoming motivated to rise up from mourning, to transform this world into a place for the Divine Presence.
While many patiently anticipate the coming Temple, not all Jews want worshipers, Jewish or Muslim, flooding the Temple Mount. Nobody is certain exactly where the Holy of Holies in the Temple was located, and these faithful Jews do not want the unwitting visitor to tread on that spot. Worshipers must first be cleansed with the ashes of the red heifer as required in Numbers 19 before Jews can worship freely in the Temple area.
East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount have been points of major contention in past efforts to negotiate a two-state agreement. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, and the Jews do not want to give up this location that is so precious to Judaism. The world would never expect the Muslims to hand over control of the Kaaba in Mecca in order to keep peace, but the Jews are not free to worship on their holiest site because they fear Muslim violence.
Many disasters have befallen the Jews on the 9th of Av throughout history. According to Jewish tradition, this was the day that God told the Children of Israel they were prohibited from entering the Promised Land because of disbelief. They were forced to wander in the desert forty more years until that adult generation had died out. That tragic day was just the beginning…
On the 9th of Av in:
- 586 BC, Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and the Babylonian captivity began;
- AD 70, the Second Temple, which stood during Christ’s ministry, was destroyed by the Romans precisely as Jesus predicted in Luke 19;
- AD 135, the famous Bar Kokhba revolt was squelched when Bethar, the last Jewish stronghold, fell to the Romans;
- AD 136, the Roman Emperor Hadrian established a heathen temple to Jupiter on the site of the Jewish Temple. Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city, and renamed the land as Palestina, to distance its Jewish heritage. The date when the Temple area was plowed under by the Romans was the 9th of Av.
The day has continued to be associated with grief for the Jewish people throughout history. For example, Pope Urban II declared the Crusades on the 9th of Av in 1242. Accordingt to the Alhambra Decree, the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 on this day (the same day that Columbus left on his westward route to the Indies). On the 9th of Av in 1942, the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were mass deported to the Treblinka extermination camp in Poland. Thus the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av, has become a symbol of all the persecutions and misfortunes of the Jewish people, for the loss of their national independence and their sufferings in exile. Above all, it is a day of intense mourning for the destruction of the Temple.
A Day of Mourning… And Future Joy
Tisha b’Av is marked with sadness and fasting from food and drink. Observant Jews avoid bathing or washing clothes or enjoying entertainment like music or movies. On this day the Jews are reminded of their tragic history.
Yet, this day is also expressly linked with Israel’s glorious destiny. The Jews also look forward to the ultimate rebuilding of the Temple, to a time when Tisha b’Av will become a day of joy and gladness (as it was foretold in Zechariah 8:19).
We do know that the Temple will be rebuilt because Jesus, John, and Paul all make reference to it (Matt 24:15; Rev 11:1, 2; 2 Thess 2:4). We also know that a future Temple will be desecrated by the Coming World Leader when he sets himself up to be worshiped (2 Thess 2:3–4). It is possible this prophetic event will also take place on Tisha b’Av—and may happen in the not-too-distant future.