Tisha B’Av and Dad’s birthday

On Sunday it will be Tisha B’Av – translated as the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av – and Israel will slow down a bit.  The 9th of Av is an unusual day in the Jewish calendar.  It commemorates the destruction of both Temples.  It’s a fast day and considered to be a day of mourning.  But many people in Israel kind of ignore it.  Employers offer it as one of the several days a person can choose to take off for religious purposes.  So a lot of people are still working – and according to religious laws, a person is allowed to work even if they are fasting.

For skeptics who wonder how it could be that both Temples were destroyed on the same day, well, it’s mostly a matter of odds.  In ancient times, you usually didn’t gather your armies in winter – Israel isn’t in the tropics, so we do have a winter – which eliminates at least 4 or 5 months.  In spring, you gather your armies and then you have to get to where you want to go, in this case Jerusalem.  By the time the end of July or early August rolls around, there’s a good chance you’ll reach your goal.  And because the Jewish calendar is lunar, the 9th of Av moves around.  So it’s possible that the First Temple fell on July 31 and the Second Temple fell on August 9, but they would still both be the 9th of Av. There are also those who go through history and point out all the terrible things that happened to the Jews on the 9th of Av.  Two often-cited examples are the expulsions of the Jews from Spain and England.

In Israel there are groups that march around the outside of the walls of the Old City and those who will likely ascend the Temple Mount on Sunday.  I hope it will be uneventful, but you never know.  The atmosphere in Israel is always combustible.

The day after the 9th of Av is Dad’s birthday.  Actually, I’m not sure how to say that correctly.  The day is still Dad’s birthday, but since he is no longer with us, maybe it’s more correct to say it in the past tense.  To me, it’s still in the present tense.  Monday is Dad’s birthday.  It will also be one of the “firsts” in the mourning year – the first time that I can’t call my Dad on his birthday.  His number is still in my phone, but it won’t connect, and for a minute I might say to myself, “Oh, he’s in a place where he doesn’t have cellular service.”  And that will be true.  Then I’ll have to remember that he won’t be answering at all.  That will be hard.

Like Tisha B’Av, it will be a mournful day, but one in which I’ll still work and I’ll keep moving forward.  As we all do even if our Temples, literal or symbolic, are destroyed.

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