This Saturday evening marks the beginning of Tish’ah B’Av, the Ninth of Av, the date on which we commemorate the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians, the Second Temple by the Romans, and other catastrophes in Jewish history. From the three weeks before Tish’ah B’Av, up to Rosh Ha-Shanah, a major liturgical shift takes place. The three Haftarah readings before Tish’ah B’Av are from the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, dealing with the destruction of the First Temple and the exile of the Jewish people. These are known in Aramaic as the tlat d’puranuta, ‘the three of calamity’. Following Tish’ah B’Av, we read seven Haftarot from the prophet Isaiah, known as the shivah d’nechemata, ‘the seven of comfort’, each one with a message of hope, consolation and the promise of a renewed relationship with God. The seven weeks of prophecies of consolation lead us up to Rosh Ha-Shanah.
Six days after Tish’ah B’Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, comes Tu B’Av (Fifteenth of Av), one of the happiest days. A little-known or recognised holiday in the Diaspora, in modern-day Israel it is celebrated as a holiday of love, Chag Ha-Ahavah.
The cycle of the Jewish year is extraordinary in its ability to lead us through the gamut of human emotions, to connect us with the cycle of nature, and our Jewish historical experiences. This is a remarkable period of the year, leading us to the profound sorrow and mourning of Tish’ah B’Av, to the comfort of Shabbat Nachamu, the following week, through more weeks of consolation, to the New Year. Part of the genius of Judaism is to express and offer hope, even in the darkest of times.
On Sunday morning, MJC will be marking Tish’ah B’Av with a reading of Eikhah, the Book of Lamentations, and an opportunity to study relevant texts with our Rabbis.
Next Thursday evening, we will celebrate Tu B’Av, together with Rabbi Dr. Eli Levin and members of our sister congregation Darchei Noam in Israel. Please come along, to the Scout Hut in Hatch End, and bring a love song or poem to share!
Shabbat Shalom to all.
Rabbi Rachel Benjamin
(Portrait by Gary Italiaander)