Shalom and greetings:
In our tour through the Jewish calendar this year, we arrive at August 13, Tisha B'Av, and August 19, Tu B'Av. The first is the saddest day and the second is the happiest day on the calendar.
Tisha B'Av, "ninth day of the month of Av," is a fast day commemorating the destruction of both Temples, by the Babylonians [586 B.C.E], and by the Romans [70 C.E.]. Other horrid events happened on this day, e.g. the Spanish expulsion [1492 C.E.]. Some Jews refuse to commemorate Tisha B'Av, because they think it's about restoring the Temple, and miss the spiritual message.
The Talmud tells that when bad things happen we are to look inside ourselves for the reason, not outside (Beracoth 5a). The first Temple fell because Hebrews divided Solomon's kingdom and were easily conquered. The second Temple fell because Jews had sinat chinam (baseless hatred) towards one another (Talmud Yoma 9b). Groups fought with one another, gossiped and had cliques. One fellow got snubbed at a party, was so humiliated, as rabbis looked on doing nothing, that he told the Romans that Jews were "plotting to rebel" (Talmud Gittin 55b-56a), which started the siege.
Tisha B'Av mourns our not understanding that intrinsic to Judaism are the concepts of "love your fellow" and "Shalom ha gadol" – peace is the greatest of virtues (Talmud Derek Eretz). Problems with others stem from our own character defects. Tisha B'Av is a time for deep introspection and improving our future behavior.
Tu B'Av (15th Av) is the happiest day in Judaism! Young women and men would dance in the vineyards and meet. The girls would wear the same white simple dress so that rich girl, and poor girl, would all look alike, none adorned with jewelry or make up. Males would get to know them for their intelligence and kindness, and not for external attributes [Talmud Ta'anit 30b-31a]. "Whoever enjoys a wedding feast and gladdens the bride and groom it is as though he rebuilt one of the ruins of Jerusalem" (Talmud Beracoth 6b). Tu B'Av is a day of love, when marriages, engagements, proposals have extra Mazel [luck]. By participating in a joyous wedding, one is repairing the world.
Rabbi Arthur Segal is an international lecturer, author, and teacher. Visit him at www.JewishSpiritualRenewal.org . Email at RabbiASegal@aol.com .
Jewish Spiritual Renewal
Hilton Head Island, SC; Bluffton, SC; Savannah, GA