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After the Ninth of Av

By Sondra Oster Baras

Even as we continue to mourn the destruction of the Temple nearly 2,000 years ago, and experience the difficulties that face us in Israel in 2018, we are comforted knowing that we are in the process of redemption, we have returned, and are here to stay.

Sunday was the Ninth of Av, the date on the Hebrew calendar which commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Israel.  The Second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE.  It was destroyed by the Romans as the final blow to Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel at that time.  The Romans understood that if the Temple was destroyed, Jewish morale would have received a mortal blow.  The final attack was accompanied by thousands of Jews murdered and taken into slavery.

Just over 60 years later, after years of Roman oppression that included financial oppression and religious persecution, the Jews of Israel rose once again in rebellion against the Romans.  Under the leadership of Bar Kochba, they managed to repel the Romans for three years until this rebellion was quashed as well.  The destruction of the land and the persecution of the people in the wake of this rebellion were even more horrific than the Great Revolt of the first century.  Most Jews were exiled to Rome and other areas.  There was a desolateness and barrenness of the land that would last until the end of the 19th Century when Jews, once again, began to return to the land in numbers.

Each year, Jews mourn the destruction of the Temple, and fast and pray in remembrance of the horrors of the time.  We read from the Book of Lamentations which tells us of the terrible times during the destruction of the First Temple.  But we also read the stories and poetry that were written by Jews describing the destruction of the Second Temple.  And, as G-d would have it, so many other events throughout the ages occurred on the same terrible date – most prominent of all was the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

Much has been said about the bloody history of anti-Semitism throughout our nearly two millennia of exile. So much of the persecutions and the murders of Jews, the crusades, the Inquisition, the pogroms, were carried out in the name of Christianity and encouraged, if not initiated, by the Church.  But anti-Semitism is not limited to Christian Europe.  Nearly every country that had a sizeable Jewish community persecuted their Jews to some extent.  Our people were spat upon, our religion was reviled, and forced conversions and outright murder were not uncommon. And even today, in this post-Holocaust era, anti-Semitism is alive and well.

The nature of the collective memories that we recall on the 9th of Av is varied.  We recall the punishments that G-d had warned He would mete out upon us were we to disobey Him:  “And I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, and your land shall be desolate and your cities waste…. you shall have no power to stand before your enemies.  And you shall perish among the nations and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.”  (Leviticus 26:32-38)

These verses give us context – we understand that what we have been going through was divinely appointed and divinely predicted.  But that same awareness, enables us to look to the future, to hope for a different reality.  For at the conclusion of the verses quoted above, are the positive promises of G-d:  “Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob and also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember and I will remember the land.   . . And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly and to break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their G-d.”  (Leviticus 42-44)  And in another place, G-d promises, “If thy outcasts be at the utmost parts of heaven, from there will the Lord your G-d gather you and from there will He fetch you and the Lord your G-d will bring you into the Land which your fathers possessed and you shall possess it. . . And the Lord your G-d will put all these curses upon your enemies and on them who hate you, who persecuted you.”  (Deuteronomy 30:4-7)  Not only will G-d return us to our Land, but He will punish those nations who have persecuted us through the ages.

In the year 2018, 70 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, the 9th of Av has taken on a different perspective.  We more readily identify with the verses quoted in Deuteronomy, that speak of a return after the exile, then we do with the description of the destruction of the land and the exile of our people.  But, our tradition is clear – only when the Messiah comes will the 9th of Av become a day of happiness and joy.

The redemption that we are currently experiencing is miraculous indeed.  But we are only in the middle of the process.  It is far from completed.  Although we are back in our land, we know our enemies are still powerful and eager to destroy us.  The verses quoted above in Deuteronomy speak of a spiritual return as well – a mass return to G-d, to the study of His word and obedience to His commandments.  This is beginning to happen, but it is far from completed.  More and more Jews are asking about the meaning of the 9th of Av and are examining the progress of Jewish history as the truly miraculous story it is.  And more and more Jews of faith and commitment are reaching out to their fellow secular Jews and teaching them, inspiring them, both through acts of charity and kindness and through teaching and prayer.

It is at times like these that we are able to look forward once again, to a final redemption.  We have hope and the end is in sight.  But for as long as we have not completed the process, we must also read and mourn the Book of Lamentations.  We must always remember the events of persecution and anti-Semitism that we suffered to give us the strength we need to fight our remaining enemies.  But this memory is also a catalyst for repentance, for understanding and for return.

4 thoughts on “After the Ninth of Av”

  1. Sondra! I sent you an email concerning your two week tour of Judea and Samaria in the month of March 2019. No response. Will there be a tour in March? I hope you are well! Pat Murphy fellowship church.

  2. I have long been interested in Jewish history, I belong to a small group in which we study Torah weekly, you mention that there are many happenings on the 9th of Av, is there a list you can send me or a website you can recommend? I would like to study this as a subject for myself.
    In HIS Name

  3. A wonderful article Sondra. Thank you. As I’ve mentioned previously, as a Christian I believe the Messiah has come the first time and we are anxiously awaiting the full development of His kingdom (at His second coming) and the full restitution of Israel, which present world events indicate is nigh. My greatest “concern” is that I don’t know precisely what Joel chapter 3 will mean, except that I rejoice in the outcome that Israel will be vindicated and ALL the heathen nations will recognize that Israel is G-d’s chosen people. Hurrah!!!!

  4. Blessings dear Sondra, well I am speechless with the atrocities that have been committed against the Jews from the Christian Church. What can I say. I weep as I write. I can hardly contain myself. I am reading through a 40 page spreadsheet from Root-Source of those ‘documented’ atrocities from the Nations against the Jewish people and having French and German parents, I sit in mourning at my generational line who might have been a part of such things. Oh G-d have mercy on us. I know G-d in His vast Wisdom and Love has a plan but on behalf of this Christian here, I repent for our actions toward the Jewish people. Please forgive me and my families for such atrocities. May G-d hear and forgive as I repent before Him and you my dear sister, a Jew, forgive our arrogance, our insolence, our blindness, our greed, our hate, our jealousy, our lack of mercy, grace and Love. That is not ‘Christ-ian’ at all – it’s a deceived group of people. I am horrified and mortified and repentant as a Christian who was never taught these things or knew of these things and as a follower of Yeshua, I stand with Israel! You are our Mother. We bow to you and ask for your forgiveness. As you quoted “The verses quoted above in Deuteronomy speak of a spiritual return as well – a mass return to G-d, to the study of His word and obedience to His commandments.” I can say that is true! I am one of these! The return to Torah, to His wonderful commands, to the Life and Bread found in His Word has changed our lives! I won’t say it’s been easy. Having taken Shabbat seriously and closing our business on this day has in part brought us ruin at this point. But that’s just in the worldly sense, and it’s heart breaking when family turn angry at us too for just trying to keep Torah. Christian family mind you. So in the tiniest of ways we recognize the power of His Word and being a carrier of it as the Jewish people have been called to be – brings much persecution! It’s crazy. I’ve never known anything like it. How have you survived these thousands of years! By G-d’s Grace! Who could not look at the Jewish people today, after all they have been through and continue to go through and not see that there is a God! I thank Him, for what He’s revealed to us thus far, for giving us amazing teachers, mentors, evangelists such as yourself – to help us understand the Word of G-d and I Give Him Glory for all Israel, for His amazing Jewish people, that are the apple of His eye, and His passion for the land – may He return soon and bring eternal Shalom for us all. Blessings and love from my heart. Brigitte Reich.

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