Most of you will agree that the highest point in the Jewish year is Passover, the holiday of Pessach, commemorating a time when the Jewish nation went from slavery to freedom.
And by the same token, the lowest point in the year is the 9th of Av, "Tish'ah-be-Av", which occurs next week. It marks the time when our nation went from freedom, or relative freedom, into slavery--not once but twice, and some count the destruction of Bar Kochvah as third time, and the expulsion from Spain as fourth.
Traditionally, of course, Tish'ah Be'Av is the anniversary of the destruction of the first Temple in 586 BCE, and of the second Temple more than 650 years later.
Strangely enough, this is not the date the bible gives. The 2nd book of Kings (ch. 25, v. 8) names "the 7th of the 5th month", which is the 7th of Av, counting the year from Nissan, the month of Passover.
Jeremiah, who lists more details than the book of Kings, names the 10th (ch. 52, v.12). [The book of Chronicles is very brief and gives no date]. But Jewish oral tradition is that it was the 9th.
The destruction of the first Temple was a deliberate act, carried out not in the heat of war but after the country was conquered, the king captured and the nation subdued. One month after the fall of Jerusalem, the Babylonian warlord Nebuzaradan came to the city and systematically destroyed it. He set on fire the Temple, the king's house and all large houses of the city, and also demolished the city's wall.
The destruction of the second Temple was quite different, and much more horrible. It was the final blow (not counting some isolated outposts, like Metzadah) in the putting down of the great Jewish rebellion against Rome, the height of a battle in which thousands perished, most of them unarmed civilians.
We know much more about it because of an eyewittness. Josephus--or in Hebrew, Yoseph ben Mattityahu, was (by his own account) the army commander in the Galilee, who surrendered to the Romans after his army was beaten. We have no way of checking any of his account, and since it appears in a book written in Rome, for consumption by Romans--titled, "The Jewish War"-- it is quite likely he made the Roman commander Titus appear kinder than he actually was.
But many details seem to fit. To conclude today's services, and prepare us for Tish'ah-be-Av community services scheduled here in the coming week, I have asked Becky to read a slightly shortened version of the account given by Joesphus.
Note: The reading from Josephus should be carefully selected and edited. Parts of the narrative are quite horrifying, violent and graphic, and may be too much for young listeners.
Author and Curator: Dr. David P. Stern
Mail to Dr.Stern: david("at" symbol)phy6.org .
Last updated 9 June 2002