The Hebrew date for this Shabbos is the Ninth of Av. Tisha B’Av throughout history has been a day of Jewish national tragedy and great hope throughout the ages. Since Shabbos is designated as a day of joy rather than mourning, this year, we commemorate Tisha B’Av on Sunday, instead.
The calamities of Tisha B’Av began on this date in 1313 BCE with the pessimistic report of the twelve spies who returned from assessing the land of Israel. Most of the spies reported that Israel would be impossible to conquer due to the giant inhabitants. Only Caleb and Joshua spoke of the true beauty and blessing of the land of Israel. That night, the Jewish nation cried, heeding the unfortunate pessimism of the spies. On that fateful night, G-d warned us that this day would be one set aside for meaningful punishment and tears throughout the ages.
And so it has been.
As a nation, we have experienced so many Jewish tragedies on this fateful day:
The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE
The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE
The city of Beitar was destroyed by the Romans in 135 CE and the Jewish population of that city was annihilated.
Turnus Rufus, a Roman warrior, plowed the city of Jerusalem in 135 CE.
On this ominous date, the Jews were expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1306, and from Spain in 1492.
Germany entered World War I in 1914
SS commander Heinrich Himmler received formal approval for The Final Solution and thus began the Holocaust.
In 1942, the Jews were deported from the Warsaw Ghetto.
We cry for the pain of the losses, the devastation and for the light of the connection to G-d. We shed tears over what we had and what we have lost.
However, we must find hope in our sadness, sweetness in the sourness of the past tragedies. Our tears should not be the pessimistic tears cried by our ancestors on the night the spies returned. They should be meaningful tears based upon the optimism and connection of Joshua and Caleb. After all, pain indicates that we are alive and feeling. Crying for so many centuries shows that we are still connected to the Holy Temple and the presence of G-d. The month of Av means father and we must feel the embrace of G-d, our father, through the sour past and into the sweet future.
The Jewish nation looks to our leaders who taught us to find light, meaning and hope, even at the darkest times. After the destruction of the Temple, Rabbi Akiva was walking in Jerusalem with three other great Rabbis. They saw a fox running among the ruins of the Holy of Holies of the Holy Temple. The Rabbis began to cry at this sight of utter devastation. Famously, Rabbi Akiva began to laugh. He explained “The joyous prophecy of Zechariah is contingent upon the sad prophecy of Uriah. Uriah’s prophecy was that ‘Zion shall be plowed like a field.’ Zechariah’s prophecy was that ‘The old men and women will return and sit in the streets of Jerusalem…’ I see that the prophecy of Uriah has been fulfilled, and now I know with certainty that the prophecy of Zechariah will come to fruition…”.
Tisha B’Av has been a day of darkness and devastation and yet, we hope for the light. As Leonard Cohen famously sang, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. ”
May the darkness of Tisha B’Av be tempered by the laughter of Rabbi Akiva’s clarity of fate and faith. May the light enter our lives from a clear understanding of the cracks in the darkness. May the sweet replace the sour as we feel G-d’s embrace and we hope for the Final Redemption and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.
For Shabbos, I prepared Rice Krispies Treats to represent the Kotel (Western Wall) stones. I placed green Sour Sticks between the stones for a sweet/sour flavor and to represent the live greenery growing in the cracks of the Kotel stones.
1 jar of marshmallow fluff
3 tablespoons margarine
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 small bag of green sour sticks
Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Cut sour sticks into small pieces.
Over low heat, melt margarine. Add marshmallow fluff and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Add Rice Krispies, 2 cups at a time. Stir until well combined.
Using a wooden spoon or a firm silicone spatula, press Rice Krispies treats evenly onto lined baking sheet.
Cut into brick-like pieces and display on a rectangular or square platter. Intersperse green sour sticks pieces between the Rice Krispies Treats.