It’s no secret that some Jewish holidays are unfortunately less popular and less observed than others. This can be due to a lack of knowledge and education, or perhaps apathy and disinterest. But as we know, all events on the Jewish calendar are equally important, and we generally try to focus on all special days, promoting them and usually hosting events or parties to commemorate.
However, there is one day that we don’t promote as much, and in fact I’ve had some questions about it in the past. The date is Tisha B’av—the 9th of Av (this year starting at dusk on July 31 and concluding after dark on August 1)—which is a fast day commemorating the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem.
It is a day that has the least fanfare possible. Of course, we fast and observe the prescribed restrictions as well as reciting the necessary prayers instituted for this day. But that’s the extent of it.
In some communities the Tisha B’av services are accompanied by practical jokes and small time mischief. There’s even a story of one rabbi who—after being the victim of a prank on Tisha B’av—looked up to heaven and said to G-d, “Your children are not properly observing this ‘holiday’ you gave them, isn’t it time you took it away from them?”—A reference to the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Temple, when Tisha B’av will no longer be observed as a day of mourning.
Another interesting anecdote is that the book containing the Tisha B’av prayers—called “Kinot”—has for the longest time only been printed in cheap paperback form. This is because Jews have always hoped that this year will be the last that these prayers are being recited; so after Tisha B’av they would all discard the booklets and not plan on needing them again.
The Jewish belief in the coming of the Moshiach has always been real. Through thick and thin, and in good times and bad, we know that the day will come when all Jews will return to the Holy Land and rebuild our Holy Temple.
We also believe that we can actually do something to bring this about. Hoping and praying is important, but like anything else, G-d helps those that help themselves. The fate of our people as well as that of the entire world is in our hands.
Every mitzvah we do and act of kindness we perform makes the world a better place for everyone. Every good deed brings the ultimate redemption a step closer, to a time that—as the prophet Isaiah says—“Nation shall not lift the sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore,” with the arrival of our long awaited Moshiach.
May it happen in our times.
Wishing you Shabbat shalom and an easy fast,
Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov