Rosh Chodesh Av

Chodesh Tov!! We are entering the month of Av, a month famous as a tragic period throughout history, as the Gemara in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us, “When Av begins, happiness is decreased.” However a great period comes about in the middle of this month and I will elaborate more on that during this Dvar Torah.

We know that the 1st of Av, as we learn in Parshah Chukat, Aharon passed away on this day, through the ‘kiss’ of death from Hashem (Bamidbar 20:22-29).

During the 1st of Av, around more than 1000 years after the death of Aharon, we learn that Ezra and his followers came into Israel to be near the Second Temple.

The 7th of Av, was a miserable day throughout Jewish history, Nebuchadnezzar came to destroy the First temple (Kings II: 25:8), as the Babylonians broke in to the Temple (Taanit 29a). A civil war also took place on this day during the Second temple era between different Jewish factions, after they could not decide whether to attack the Romans or not.

The 9th of Av was a horrific day in Jewish history, the First and Second Temples were both destroyed on this day. Nebuchadnezzar and Titus both in different eras destroyed the Temple. The prior being a Babylonian and the latter being Roman. After the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple the Jews went into exile for 70 years.

The 9th of Av is memorable as a day which saw the fall of Betar (Gittin 57). Betar, the last stronghold of the Bar Kochba rebellion, fell to the Romans on the 9th of Av, after a three-year siege. 580,000 Jews were said to have died by either starvation or by the sword, including Bar Kochba, the leader of the rebellion.

The Spanish Inquisition also tragically took place on this day in the English year 1492.

The 9th of Av is commemorated as we fast every year on this day, a 24 hour fast, remembering the destruction of the Temples. It is common to learn the book of Iyov (Job) and to read the Megillat Eicah (Lamentations) on this day.

The 10th of Av is famous for the continuation of the Temples being burnt.

On a much happier note, the 15th of Av, In ancient Israel, there was the custom that on this day "the daughters of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed linen garments... and dance in the vineyards" and "whoever did not have a wife would go there" to find himself a bride, as related in the Gemora ‘Taanit.’ (Taanit 30-31)

The reason they would wear borrowed linen garments was so those without nice clothes of their own would not be embarrassed.

It was a day that we learn in the book of ‘Shoftim’ that the Benyaminites found wives for themselves which led to a repopulation of that tribe. It is also a special day as the Jews stopped dying in the wilderness every year on this day in their fortieth year in the wilderness (Shoftim 19-21).

Also 15th of Av is known as the day in the year, when during the period of the Beit Hamikdash, it saw the completion of cutting firewood. Overall the 15th of Av was a great day!!!

The 24th Av is known as the day that the Hasmoneans reinstated Jewish civil law which replaced the Hellenist secular law, and declared this day a holiday.

Hope you all have a meaningful fast, Shavua Tov, Michael Zaroovabeli.