For more information about Jewish holidays, here are a few good resources:
Tisha B'Av, the fast of the month of Av, is a day of remembering the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem and a reaffirmation of our people's survival through the ages. We gather in solemnity and candlelight, giving ear to the poetry of the past while at the same time gaining new strength and courage for the present and future.
from Rabbi Zari Weiss:
As the sun sets on Monday evening (July 31st), the Jewish day known as Tisha B'Av begins. Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, commemorates the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem in 586 BCE and 70 CE, respectively, as well as many other disasters that befell the Jewish People (for more on the history, read box below).
Because of these disasters, Tisha B'av is a day of mourning. Traditionally, Jews do not eat or drink, wash or bathe, engage in sexual relations, or wear leather, or use creams or oils for beautification. Jews also read the Book of Lamentations, known in Hebrew as Eicha.
Many contemporary Jews have struggled to discern how best to observe Tisha B'Av. While we may appreciate that the religious practices that took place when the Temples stood were a valuable expression of our people's religiosity then, we may not mourn their loss; after all, from their ashes of the Temple arose prayer and worship as we know them today, the synagogue as a focal point of Jewish community, and--instead of animal sacrifices--the practices of teshuvah (repentance), tefillah (prayer), and tzedakah (giving to those in need) as a way to transform guilt for any transgressions we may have committed.
Some options for you to observe Tisha B'Av, either on your own, with members of your family, or a circle of friends: Hold a "Tisha B'av consciousness" from Monday evening until Tuesday evening at sundown, and draw on any of the following for reflection and/or action. For those who want to read about these in more detail, please read box below.
The three options are:
1) Because one interpretation suggests that the Temples were destroyed because of Sinat Chinam, Senseless Hatred, commit yourself to practicing Shmirat LaShon, Guarding of the Tongue.
2) Use the day as an opportunity to remember and recommit to protecting the earth and its resources.
3) Just as our ancestors had to flee Jerusalem which was destroyed by war, think of those today who are fleeing places which are unsafe to live-either because they are torn apart by war, violence, economic upheaval, or hopelessness.
1) The ancient rabbis taught that Jerusalem was destroyed because of Sinchat Chinam-senseless hatred. In other words, Jerusalem's physical downfall resulted from a moral downfall in the relationships between human beings. How relevant that charge is in our own day, as politicians-those who are supposed to be role models for us and our children-- speak to and about one another without civility, without what we would call menchlekite, honorable human behavior. This Tisha B'Av, let us cry out in grief at the way people are treating one another, and pledge to behave with menchlekite instead-in all of our actions and interactions. Perhaps as a first step, pledge to practice Shmirat Lashon, Guarding of the Tongue, whenever you speak. (Shmirat LaShon is a positive way of speaking about LaShon HaRah-negative speech, or gossip). Don't just refrain from negative speech, but in fact, make an effort to be kind when you speak to others. In this next year, I will be offering a number of opportunities for us as individuals as well as us as a community to learn more about what Judaism teaches about living a life of menchlekite.
2) Rabbi Arthur Waskow, another great teacher of our generation, offers two other interpretations of Tisha B'Av that suggest that the destruction of the Temple has much to say about our relationship to the earth, our home planet. One midrash (interpretation), for example, teaches that the first "Eicha" (the Hebrew name for the Book of Lamentations, which is read on Tisha B'Av) first occurred in the Garden of Eden. After the human race (represented by Adam and Eve/Chava) refused to restrain themselves from over-indulging in the abundance found in the Garden, G-d called to Adam, "Ayekah?" [a pun on Eicha]--"Where are you?" In other words, the midrash imagines
G-d saying, "What in the world are you doing, Adam and Eve? Care for this planet for the generations that will come after you!" In our day too, Waskow suggests, we are challenged with the call, "Ayeka?" "Where are you? What are you/we doing through your/our greed and refusal to restrain from over-consuming the earth's resources?" This day is a call to remember, and recommit to protecting the Garden of abundance in which we live: Temple Earth.
3) Finally, Rabbi David Seidenberg suggests that the observances of Tisha B'av are closer to the experience of being a refugee than a mourner. The day commemorates not only the destruction of the Temple, but also the fact that the city of Jerusalem was turned into a war zone, with all that a war zone entails. It calls us to remember those in our own day who must flee war zones in search of safety, shelter, food . . . a new life. On this day, let us open our hearts in compassion and perhaps give tzedakah toward any organization that is working to help the millions of refugees who are fleeing places where life has become untenable--either because of war, violence, oppression, lack of economic opportunity, lack of hope, and more. HIAS-the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (https://www.hias.org) and The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (https://www.nwirp.org) are two organizations that are doing important work in this area.
Rabbi Seidenberg has his own contemporary translation of Eicha, The Book of Lamentations, as well as other resources on his website: http://neohasid.org/resources/laments/.
Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, commemorates the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem in 586 BCE at the hand of the Babylonians and 70 CE at the hand of the Romans. Tradition teaches that around this same time throughout history, many other disasters befell the Jewish People: the first Crusade began (1096), Jews were expelled from England (1290), France (1306), and then as a result of the Spanish Inquisition, from Spain in 1492. Even up through the 20th Century, scholars have associated a number of other calamities with this date.
Because of these disasters, Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning. Traditionally, Jews do not eat or drink, wash or bathe, engage in sexual relations, or wear leather, or use creams or oils for beautification. When Jews come together to read or chant from Eicha, the Book of Lamentations, which recounts the destruction of the Temple by the prophet Jeremiah, as well as other kinnot, dirges, we sit low to the ground, just as mourners do during the first week of mourning.