Today is Tisha B’Av. And I have to ask myself, why am I fasting? I don’t care that there isn’t a Bais Hamikdash, and I wouldn’t be particularly happy if the Bayis Shlishi was built. What’s more, the date itself is of dubious significance. The Bayis Rishon may have been destroyed on 9 Av, the Bayis Shaini probably wasn’t, and as for all those other things that are supposed to have happened on Tisha B’Av, most didn’t. Not to mention the many, many tragedies that undisputedly happened on other days. Why then fast today? Why mourn?
Unlike many religious rituals, I think it is relatively easy to find meaning in Tisha B’Av. True, most of the tragedies in Jewish history did not happen today. But once we accept that, and see Tisha B’Av as a day somewhat arbitrarily chosen to commemorate Jewish tragedies, it can have real meaning. Its like Americans celebrating Veterans Day on November eleventh, the day WWI ended. Most of the soldiers in America’s history didn’t fight in WWI, but this is the day somewhat arbitrarily chosen to honor them. Tisha B’Av, whatever its historical significance (or lack thereof) can similarly serve as a day to remember and mourn the people lost in Jewish tragedies.
We mourn today for them:
For the Jews who (may have) suffered in Mitzrayim.
For the Jews killed by the Pilishtim.
For the Jews killed by the Babylonians.
For the Jews killed by the Seleucids.
For the Jews killed by the Romans
For the Jews oppressed and expelled by the Christian governments of Europe.
For the Jews of the Rhine Valley killed during the Crusades.
For the Jews massacred at York.
For the Jews oppressed by the Caliphate.
For the Jews expelled from Spain and who suffered under the Inquisition.
For the Jews killed in the pogroms of Central and Eastern Europe.
For my grandmother, who grew up watching the Nazis march past her parent’s Berlin apartment singing Deutschland Uber Alles, and who’s best friend was killed in Auschwitz.
For my great-grandfather, who’s Iron Cross from WWI lies at the bottom of the North Atlantic, sent there with the rest of his worldly possessions by a German U-boat when it torpedoed the ship on which he was fleeing from the Gestapo.
For my wife’s grandmother, who still has blue numbers on her arm.
For the millions who were not as fortunate as my relatives.
For those persecuted and expelled from Muslim countries in the 1950s.
For those who continue to be persecuted today because they are Jews.
For them we mourn.