Tisha B’Av

The Jewish Holiday
You NEVER Heard About


Rachael Klein, Rabbinic Intern

577Tisha B’Av, the 9th (tishah) of the Hebrew month of Av, is a holiday that commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, and it is often recognized through the recitation of the Book of Lamentations, in addition to a sunset-to-sunset fast.  


Most notably, this holiday is not always familiar to the average Reform Sunday School attendee. Do you know what happens when you Google: Tisha B’Av? Well, it turns out, you have to go to the fourth page of your Google search before there is a website sponsored by the Reform Movement.

On that website (reformjudaism.org), you will find a very well written, four paragraph explanation about the holiday, and links to blog posts about Tisha B’Av, but that is all. On other websites, like aish.comou.org, and chabad.org, their webpage’s are full of a substantial number of articles, information, and insight into the holiday Tisha B’Av. So why does the Reform Movement take such a removed stance, and why do other movements pay such great attention to the holiday?


The Orthodox Movement and its Hasidic branches place such an emphasis on Tisha B’Av, because they are mourning the destruction of a place that allowed them to perform so many mitzvot. Nearly half of the mitzvot commanded in the Torah can only be accomplished with the rebuilding of the Temple. To the Orthodox, the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jewish people has put those so deeply attached to the Temple in a profound mourning, a mourning that will only end when “Moshiah” (the Messiah) comes and allows for the rebuilding of the Temple.


The Reform Movement’s seemingly removed stance stems from Reform Judaism’s disassociation from Temple life, as well as concern for the Messiah. The rebuilding of the Temple is not the Reform Movement’s top priority, rather the movement focuses on the fact that suffering is still occurring today, and so Tisha B’Av is a time to reflect on the suffering that is happening around the world. With Rosh Hashanah arriving just seven weeks after Tisha B’Av, it is a time to reflect on how the world has acted, as we transition into a time where we must reflect on how we have acted over the past year.


As a movement, we may not be concerned with the rebuilding of the Temple, but we are concerned with the continual building of a better world. So on Tisha B’Av, we have the opportunity to mourn events that have been destructive to the world, and we can take the weeks following Tisha B’Av to determine how we will try to promote a repaired world for the coming new year.


P.S. (by APN) If you have ever traveled to Rome and gone to the Colosseum, you may have also viewed The Arch of Titus (picture above). What is the connection between Tisha B’Av and an ancient Roman arch? The arch was built to celebrate the exploits of Titus, which included destroying the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 CE, on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av – yes, Tisha B’Av. The carvings on the arch depict the spoils of the Temple (including the golden menorah) taken to Rome, along with Jewish captives.