Beginning on the 17th of the Jewish month of Tammuz (which fell on June 30th this year), the Jewish people commemorate a three week period of national mourning known as “The Three Weeks.” On the 17th of Tammuz, the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and on the 9th of Av, both the First and the Second Holy Temples were destroyed. This is the narrative that many people are familiar with, but the truth is, many terrible tragedies befell the Jewish people on the 9th of Av.
The first time that the Jewish people collectively mourned on the 9th of Av was in the year 1313 BCE in the Book of Numbers. The Sin of the Spies had just taken place, and the Israelites were terrified of entering the Land of Israel due to their negative reports about the land. “And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.” (Numbers 14:1). God was angry that the Jewish People did not trust him and believed the slanderous speech of the spies, and He declared, “They cried for no reason; in the future I’ll give them good reason to cry.” Since that day, the 9th of Av has been a terrible day for the Jewish people, and several national tragedies have taken place during the time period known as “The Three Weeks.”
The next tragedies to take place on the 9th of Av were the destruction of both Holy Temples, in 423 BCE and 69 CE, respectively. Years later, on 133 CE, the Jews were in the midst of a rebellion against the Roman rule. They believed that their leader Simon Bar Kochba was the messiah, and that Jewish autonomy would be returned to the Land of Israel. The final battle of the rebellion took place on the 9th of Av, 133 CE, a bloody massacre which crushed the rebellion and the dreams of Jewish autonomy.
In 1290 CE, the Jewish Nation was banned from England under the Edict of Expulsion. On March 31, 1492, Queen Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain signed an edict expelling the Jews from Spain. The edict allowed the Jews four months to prepare for their expulsion which would end an era of Jewish prosperity in a land they had grown to love and call home. The final day of the four month was the 9th of Av, 1492. Germany declared war on Russia, effectively beginning WWI on the 9th of Av, and on the 9th of Av, 1942, the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto was announced.
As you can see, the Jewish People have much to mourn on the 9th of Av. For 25 hours, we abstain from food and drink. We sit on low chairs or on the floor, and we read the Book of Lamentations. We do not bathe, apply lotion or makeup on the 9th of Av, and we act as mourners do. We remember the tragedies that befell the Jewish People, and we pray that next year, we will have one less thing to mourn with the coming of the Messiah and the reconstruction of the Holy Temple.