Divre Harav/Words from the Rabbi – Summer, 2012

The Fast Days of Summer

Fasts of mourning are not the most popular of fasts, especially in the middle of the summer. The sun is warm and bright, and the last thing that we want to do is mourn the loss of an ancient Temple, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the subsequent exile.  There is a reason, however, why Judaism has such elaborate rituals for death and morning … funeral customs, shiva, and Yahrtzeit.  Judaism believes that we are not disconnected beings creating and living our lives on our own.  Rather, we are intimately connected with and dependent on those who preceded us.  We inherited a world and a religious tradition from the hundreds and thousands of generations of humanity that came before us.  After our brief time on earth, it is our responsibility to pass along that heritage to those who will follow.  The rituals of death and mourning create the memory link between us and our past, and give us a framework in which to transmit the stories of our past to the next generation.

Tisha B’Av, the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, is the anniversary of the day upon which both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, and Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and Spain in 1492.  It is one of two major fast days on the Jewish calendar (the other being Yom Kippur).  Aside from fasting  and refraining from wearing leather and from engaging in intimate relations, it is observed by reading the book of Aicha, Lamentations, traditionally ascribed to the Prophet Jeremiah, who lived through the Babylonian exile after the first Temple was destroyed.

Three weeks prior to Tisha b’Av, on the 17th of Tammuz, Shiva Asar b’Tammuz, the walls of Jerusalem were breached. Shiva Asar bTammuz is observed as a minor fast day (sunrise to sundown) on Sunday, July 8.  These three weeks are observed as days of semi-mourning, in which weddings and other joyous celebrations should not take place.  During the first nine days of Av, one should not eat meat or drink wine (except on Shabbat), or cut one’s hair.  Three special Haftarot are chanted, known as the Haftarot of destruction.  The Haftarah the week prior to Tisha b’Av is chanted using the trope of Aicha (Lamentations). The three weeks lead us into the emotional low of the consideration of exile and the destructive nature of anti-semitism, prejudice, racism, and all forms of hatred.  Following Tisha b’Av, a series of 7 Haftarot known as the Haftarot of consolation take us back up to the emotional high of Rosh Hashanah, 7 weeks later.

Tisha B’Av will be observed on Saturday night, July 28, and Sunday, July 29.  Services will be held at the synagogue beginning at 10:00 p.m. on July 28 and 9:30 a.m. July 29.

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