Tisha B’Av is July 22nd


Tisha B AvTisha B’Av is the ninth day of the month of Av, which falls during the month of July or August. This day of mourning and fasting traditionally commemorates national calamities, such as the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem (by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E. and by the Roman general Vespasian in 70 C.E.), the fall of Bar Kokhba’s fortress in 138 C.E., and the Spanish expulsion of Jews in 1492. Some scholars believe the origins of the holiday lie in primitive people’s fear of the scorching sun at the height of the summer.

Traditional observance of Tisha B’Av focuses on fasting, prayer, reading the Book of Lamentations, and observing prohibitions against certain activities such as getting a haircut, wearing freshly pressed clothing, drinking alcohol, and, in some communities, eating meat.

Humanistic Jews do not observe Tisha B’Av by looking forward to the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem. Rather, they use this time for reflection and to affirm the power of human connection in times of need and tragedy.

The picture above is of the burning of the Olomouc Synagogue on March 15, 1939, in the first months of the Holocaust.  Observe Tisha B’Av this year with a remembrance of the plight of European Jews in World War II.  Resolve to engage in Tikkun Olam, Repairing of the World, to insure that such horror is never forgotten, and will never happen again.

A Poem of Abraham and Sarah at Machpelah

The Cave of Machpelah by Vincent vanGogh

I Am a Stranger and an Alien

I am a stranger and an alien
among you, old, bereft,
with all that is left
of love: the body of my wife.
She had a wandering life
with me, with tears, with laughter;
and now, after all these years
we are tired, she and I.
But I go on, and she has come to rest
among you.
Where is a quiet place, blessed,
where I may lay her down?
For I am an alien among you;
I have no home.
But she is dead, and can no longer roam.
I am a stranger among you,
but let her settle down in peace,
that her wandering spirit find release.

Take our choicest land, they said,
for the burial of your dead.
Who are we, our treasures to withhold
from one alone, and old?
Let her rest forever beneath our sod;
nor she, nor you, an alien before God.

(C) 2015 W. William Melnyk