praying

Christians and Tisha B’Av

…Should I weep in the fifth month [Av], separating myself, as I have done these so many years?

Zechariah 7:3

In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month …came Nebuzaradan … and he burnt the house of the L-RD…

II Kings 25:8-9

In the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month… came Nebuzaradan … and he burnt the house of the L-RD…

Jeremiah 52:12-13

Tisha B’Av, the Fast of the Ninth of Av, is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, many of which have occurred on the ninth of Av. Tisha B’Av means “the ninth (day) of Av.” It occurs in July or August.

Tisha B’Av primarily commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples, both of which were destroyed on the ninth of Av (the first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E.; the second by the Romans in 70 C.E.).

Although this holiday is primarily meant to commemorate the destruction of the Temple, it is appropriate to consider on this day the many other tragedies of the Jewish people, many of which occurred on this day, most notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and from England in 1290.

-from Judaism 101

Sometime before May of 2011, as chronicled on my former blog, I significantly reduced many activities that I had erroneously believed were my obligation to Torah observance. Not that my observance was performed with any sort of accuracy as an observant Jew might consider it, but at one time in my life I made the mistake of thinking that Jews and Jesus-believing Gentiles were assigned identical obligations to God and for all intents and purposes, a homogenous identity.

All that changed over the period of about a year and one of the primary motivators of that change was me watching my Jewish wife integrate into the local Jewish community across two synagogues and into her exploration of who she is as a Jew.

I realized that by attempting to “mimic” Jewish observance and behavior, I was diminishing my wife in her Jewish identity and diminishing the special chosen status the Jews have received from God.

Which left me with the question of just how much Jews and Christians can and should share, at least relative to Messianic Judaism but ultimately as an act of interactive fellowship between all Christians and all Jews.

And that brings me to Tisha B’Av or the ninth day of the month of Av on the Jewish religious calendar. You can click the link posted in the last sentence as well as the Judaism 101 link to learn more about this event and the weeks leading up to it.

The question is, can I or should I fast on Tisha B’Av? What is the purpose of a non-Jew fasting on a day of Jewish mourning? I’m sure the question has been asked so I went searching for questions and answers.

QUESTION: Is it OK for a Noahide to fast on Tisha B’Av? [The 9th/Tisha of the Hebrew month of Menachem Av, when Jews observe total fasting for about 24 hours and 40 minutes, as part of their traditional mourning on this anniversary of the destruction of both the first and the second Holy Temples in Jerusalem. When the 9th falls on the Seventh Day as in this year, the fast is pushed off 24 hours, and starts on Saturday night.]

ANSWER: It would seem that if a Noahide would make a full observance of all the Jewish precepts of Tisha B’Av, he would be making a religiously-observed memorial day for himself, which is like innovating a religious observance, which is forbidden.

Rabbi Moshe Weiner, author of Sefer Sheva Mitzvot HaShem, says that the only point upon which an individual Noahide could justify fasting is that he is mourning the temporary (but far too long) destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile of the Divine Presence. Since this is a permitted activity, it depends on his intention.

-from “Remembering the destruction of the Temples”
AskNoah.org

rainbow-forestYou may think it strange that I started looking for answers by exploring the propriety of a Noahide (a Gentile who observes the Seven Noahide Commandments [see Genesis 9] and is considered a “righteous Gentile” from a religious Jewish perspective) observing the fast. After all, I previously explored the idea of a Christian also being seen as a “righteous Gentile” and found, with rare exception, that the two states are incompatible.

But since this question (and many others like it) has probably been considered by the various branches of Judaism for hundreds of years or more, why not seek out their viewpoint? After all, it is a Jewish commemoration.

I only quoted from part of the article, but as you can see, it’s not considered obligatory for a Noahide to observe the fast or any of the other customary events leaving up to the actual fast day.

While a complete fast is discouraged, there are other recommended behaviors that are thought appropriate according to the Ask Noah Rabbi:

You can certainly increase in deeds of goodness and kindness for others, especially in giving donations to proper charities (which are not in conflict with Torah laws or morals)

Certainly a Noahide is encouraged to pray that the Third Holy Temple shall be established by Moshiach ben David very speedily in our days. And it very appropriate for a Noahide to read the Book of Lamentations on the night and/or day of Tisha B’Av.

The Rabbi also recommended the traditional reading of the Book of Job.

Rabbi Qury Cherki at the Noahide World Center has a similar opinion:

There are no commandments binding on a Noahide on the Ninth of Av. Any actions that he or she takes are completely voluntary. Anybody who decides to fast, or to read the Book of Lamentations or the Wars of the Jews and the Romans by Josephus, will be blessed for compassion.

The same is true of other restrictions, such as not listening to music, not greeting other people, and not using makeup. All such practices are copied from the obligations of Israel and are voluntary for Noahides. Children should not be told to fast.

Noahides can also decide on their own conditions. For example, they might allow themselves a partial fast by drinking but not eating any food. They can freely choose their own conditions.

This commentary seems a bit more relaxed than the “Ask Noah” opinion but it ultimately centers on any action the Noahide takes in response to Tisha B’Av being completely voluntary and a blessing for compassion.

churchBut what about Christians? Since the Church has been the source of much Jewish misery over the long centuries, would it be considered forbidden for a Christian to participate, or would it be (perhaps) considered an obligation as a matter of Teshuvah? If we have caused Jewish suffering, should we now, as an act of repentance, share in Jewish mourning?

It’s not easy to find anything online about Christianity and Tisha B’Av. I did manage to locate a letter written by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein posted at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. It’s addressed “Dear Pastor and Friend of the Fellowship,” so the audience is generically Christian. The letter seems educational in nature and is more advice to a Pastor on how to explain the Jewish significance of Tisha B’Av to Christian congregations.

R. Eckstein ends his letter:

It is my hope that these materials will help you gain greater insights into the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and understand the significance of Tisha b’Av.

I thank you for your continued interest and partnership in building bridges of understanding between our two faith communities.

May God bless you richly as you and your congregation continue to study His word.

The Christian Broadcasting Network posted an article by John Parsons of Hebrew for Christians Ministries entitled Tishah B’Av: Remembering the Destruction of Zion, but that too was an informational piece with no specific recommendations for Christian observance of the fast.

Which brings me to First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) article The Affliction of Av.

This day holds intense significance for the Jewish people, but what about Christians, the followers of Messiah? Should believers mourn as well? Yes, we more than anyone else.

This is the first and only affirmation I could find (granted, my search was hardly exhaustive) that Christians not only could but should observe the fast. The article continues to conclusion:

The afflictions of Tisha b’Av were not just limited to the days of the Bible. Tisha b’Av has continued to be an ominous day for the Jewish people throughout their history. Sadly, many of these tragedies have been at the hands of “Christian” rulers, popes, and angry mobs. Whether by crusades, inquisitions, pogroms, or blood libels, so-called followers of Yeshua have tortured, burned, and murdered Jews. In so doing, these “Christians” have maligned the name of the Master and blasphemed His character.

But though some of these tragedies may seem like ancient history, “Christian” persecution is still fresh in the collective mind of the Jewish people. Given that fact, perhaps Tisha b’Av should become a Christian tradition as well. We must continue to rid our congregations of the sin of anti-Semitism in whatever form it takes, whether in thought, speech, or theology.

Once again, tzom kal – May you have an easy fast.

If the Church can be said to be obligated at all to the observance of Tisha B’Av, repentance for our historic (and maybe more modern) crimes against Israel, Judaism, and the Jewish people is the reason. Beyond Teshuvah is fasting as an act of compassion and solidarity. From a Christian and Messianic point of view, we are all looking to a future time when Messiah comes (returns) and rebuilds the Temple in Jerusalem, defeating Israel’s enemies, and bringing a lasting peace to the entire world for all nations…for Jews and Gentiles alike.

Each of them will sit under his vine
And under his fig tree,
With no one to make them afraid,
For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

Micah 4:4 (NASB)

fall-of-jerusalemYesterday, I posted both a blessing and a cautionary tale about praying for the peace of Jerusalem or, conversely and even fatally, failing to do so. I believe Christians are commanded to pray for Israel’s shalom as a matter of aligning ourselves with the will of God for the Jewish nation and all of her people. In that light, I can see Christian observance of Tisha B’Av on some level to be obligatory as well. That most church Pastors and their congregations know nothing at all of Tisha B’Av may be a tragedy and a crime. Could it also be a sin?

As I write this, it is the first day of the month of Av, which begins the Jewish observance of the Nine Days leading up to the fast day. You can also learn a lot more about the three weeks leaving up to Tisha B’Av at Chabad.org.

This year, Tisha B’Av begins just before sundown on Monday, August 4th and ends about forty minutes after sundown the following day, Tuesday the 5th.

If you are Jewish and reading this and you don’t have a practice of fasting on Tisha B’Av (unless for a medical reason) I encourage you to strongly consider participating in the fast as a matter of community with all of Jewry, your brothers. If you are a Christian, from a traditional Jewish point of view, any observance of Tisha B’Av is completely voluntary and you are free to not observe the fast at all. However, the reality from a Messianic point of view (and who is to say this isn’t God’s point of view as well) is that observing Tisha B’Av can be seen as an obligation for Gentile Jesus-believers as both a matter of repentance and compassion.

This could be akin to that portion of Psalm 122 which pronounces prosperity for anyone who prays for the peace of Jerusalem and who loves the Holy City, as well as to Genesis 12 which announces blessings for those who bless Israel and curses for those who curse her.

Thus not only should we pray for Israel’s peace but we should also mourn with her in her loss.

“Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her…”

Isaiah 66:10

“He who does not mourn over the Destruction of Zion will not live to see her joy.”

-T. Bab Bathra, fol. 60. 2. & Caphtor, fol. 118. 2.

RestorationOur hope as Christians is in the return of the Messiah and the resurrection in the New Covenant age when Jerusalem will be rebuilt and Israel will raised as the head of all the nations. Jerusalem will be in her uttermost joy, but according to Jewish tradition, those who do not mourn for Zion now will not be alive in the Messianic future to receive her joy. This is commentary on both Isaiah 66:10 and Genesis 12. This is a warning to all believers who still embrace hatred of Israel in their (our) hearts.

May God grant wisdom and compassion to His worshipers among the nations, and may He teach us to weep bitter tears over the fallen Temple, so that we may sing with joy when Messiah raises the Mikdash, the Holy Temple, again.

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13 thoughts on “Christians and Tisha B’Av”

  1. While I consider the Noahide Laws to be irrelevant, I do agree that all who love God and His word, should be mourning for the restoration of the Temple, considering, it is a house of prayer for all nations…

  2. I explained my reasons for including the Jewish opinion on Noahides and Tisha B’Av in the body of my blog post, Zion.

  3. @James — The Jewish opinion from which you derived an incompatibility between Noahides and Christians a few years ago could be viewed as somewhat outdated, since reliable current Jewish opinion about Christians relaxes somewhat the harsh view that they are idolators — accusing them instead of the lesser error of “shituf”. Hence Christians certainly could (perhaps should) become Noahides. After all, if Jews are able to embrace a divine Messiah without becoming idolators, then certainly Christian Noahides should be able to do so. Of course, that begs the question about embracing a non-idolatrous view of that divine Messiah as distinct from a deified one. [;^)]

    Nonetheless, heartfelt Christian demonstrations of sorrow and repentance on Tish’a B’Av — even joining with Jews in Jewish observances — could hardly be amiss.

  4. I wonder if becoming a “Christian Noahide” would be somewhat redundant, PL. If, as a Gentile believer, I desired to become a Noahide, what about my behavior would need to change?

    And yes, I agree that Christians and Jews should come alongside each other to mourn on Tisha B’Av for one day we shall come together at the rebuilt Temple to pay honor and glory to the King.

  5. I agree about the redundancy of the terminology, James. I used it to invoke two aspects of identity — an aspect of current spiritual identity among non-Jews as well as a behavioral identity. If Christians were already as widely familiar with and following the Noahide behavioral component, as they should have been doing already for many centuries, there would be no need to make a label of it. As matters stand, those who would do so probably need a distinctive label, for the same reason as Hebrew Roots fellowships chose a label to distinguish them other Christian denominations and their doctrines. The only reason I sequenced the label as Christian Noahides rather than Noahide Christians was because apparently there do already exist some supposedly non-Christian Noahides. But perhaps some of them are simply reticent to use the term “Christian” because of their departure from traditional doctrinal stances vis-à-vis Torah and distorted views about Rav Yeshua under that label.

  6. It sounds like you’re defining a Christian Noahide as something more/different than just a non-Jew who follows the 7 Noahide commandments. I tend to think of the term “Messianic Gentile” as distinguishing a person from a more “generic” Christian becaue of, as you say, our “departure from traditional doctrinal stances vis-à-vis Torah and distorted views about Rav Yeshua under that label.” I know that some Christians are considered among the righteous among the nations, often because of their assistance in helping Jews escape Hitler’s Holocaust, so I know it’s not impossible to be a Christian and also to be considered a righteous Gentile. But in this case, does the righteous Christian also qualify as a Noahide?

  7. I don’t remember how I discovered it, but there is a website devoted to Noahidism from a rabbinic perspective and specifically distinct from Christianity. It deals with issues and behaviors that do derive from the 7 commandments or categories, but it is much more elaborated — not unlike what you have previously referred to from Lancaster or one of the other FFOZ presenters in the context of the 4 prohibitions presented in Acts 15. I suspect that there is a lot of overlap in the goals pursued under these various labels or potential labels of HR, MG, CN or NC.

    The fundamental question to which gentiles seeking righteous living have sought to answer is the same one used by a Christian theologian Dr. Francis Schaffer several decades ago as the title for his book: “How shall we then live?” (commas were omitted deliberately to allow several variations of that same question). Dr. Schaffer, however, being firmly ensconced in a somewhat traditional Christian cultural framework, did not address the desire for alternative social-group labels that arose subsequently to escape the stigma of Christian history.

    The notion and label of “Righteous Gentile” is specifically a rather recent Israeli concept awarded in the context of protecting and rescuing Jews from the Nazis or any similar genocidal situation, so it would do a disservice to that notion to attempt to generalize it, even though certainly there are many other ways in which gentiles may demonstrate righteousness either specifically toward Jews or even more broadly.

    Some folks would like to identify a label that seems conceptually sound, use it as a rallying focus, and then fill it with suitable doctrinal and behavioral meaning. While this might have its advantages for social motivation, it seems to me that any such rallying labels will ultimately need to give way to something better after the needed work has been completed to define a truly suitable compilation of perspectives, attitudes, doctrines, and behaviors (akin to the Jewish notion of “middot”).

  8. James are the Christians at your church going to do Tisha B’Av?

    Are you the “Go to” guy for such knowledge? (Which is a honor from HaShem if you are)

    Having the favor of G-d on you to share with Christians the roots of there faith is truly a blessing and shouldn’t be overlooked.

    If your a gentile showing diligence of Torah Study and engrossed in the words of the greatest Tzadikkim to every set foot on earth then, you’ll slowly or rapidly see ALL types of people curious and want a taste of pure Judaism which is Messianic Judaism.

    Joy is the key here! If Torah Study, Shacharit, Minchah, Ma’ariv, Tzedakah, chinuch of children, are all done without joy then you lose the full meaning of faith in HaShem.

    Most of Christianity it appears doesn’t teach Torah. Or truly sees it value, things like Holy Spirit, Baptism, Gospel, Charity, New Covenant, grace, love, kindness, mercy, Angels, demons, prophecy, evangelism etc.. All Originated in the Torah and was further developed as you read the Tanach. And like Proclaim Liberty said in short they (Christians) have a misplaced view of Messiah Yeshua. If Christians began to embrace Torah from a Jewish perspective and shed a more graceful light on Messiah then I think in time more Jews would be receptive, but Torah is key in all this.

    Like the Chofetz Chaim used to say “The Evil Inclination doesn’t mind if a Jew Fasts, Prays, and gives charity all day long – provided he does not study Torah!”

    Avraham represented Kindness Yitzchak represented service, those two are indispensable to the pillars of the world but the 3rd pillar Torah is crucial to Israel’s success in carrying out its mission on earth. Ya’akov represented Torah and without is Israel will fail.

    Jewish history bears this out all too tragically. In countries where Jews invested historically in synagogues and charities but not institutions of Torah Study, they assimilated and nearly disappeared. Only where they remained loyal to the legacy of Ya’akov did the remain strong!

    Be’Shalom

    Bruce

  9. Bruce, I doubt all but a few people at my church even are aware of Tisha B’Av. I’m sure the two Jewish people I know there are and the Head Pastor lived in Israel for fifteen years so he knows about it, but even then, I don’t know if any of them are planning to fast.

    In my Sunday school class, I’m sometimes thought of as the “go to” guy for certain pieces of Jewish-related information, but I don’t think I’m considered that way generally in church. As a wise friend once told me, don’t seek Christianity and don’t seek Judaism, seek an encounter with God.

  10. James yes, that’s 1st and Foremost drawing closer to G-d. And as disciples of Yeshua we’re commissioned to make other disciples after Him, this faction is also a way of doing Tikkun Olam, when more people desire to conform into the image of G-d and not make G-d into there own image (which is idolatry) we begin to hasten the arrival of Messiah and the destruction of this world can be repaired.

    Tisha B’Av is a great way to reflect on the result of not acknowledging G-d or trying to make G-d in our own image. We will see the need for Teshuvah and that brings it back to Torah and the teachings of Yeshua.

    I have Boaz’s book, Tent of David (I’m not going to read it yet) because I’m still making sure my intentions will be of the standard the Torah teaches and how Yeshua gave even more divine light on how to join our Jewish brothers and sisters on being the light of the world.

    Reading your shared experiences in dealing with the Christian mindset on the G-d of Israel has been preparing me with what I may face when I decide to build relationships with those in that denomination.

    I’m pretty sure it must be a challenge at times but also rewarding when you see fruit that HaShem has done there by your devotion to Him and trying to conform your life in His image according to what the Torah says.

    HaYesod seems like a nice “ice-breaker” when dealing with Christians. Leading a HaYesod group with local Christians is another way to show them the roots of there faith…….. but I digress.

    -Bruce

  11. True. If the Head Pastor at church would relent and allow me to teach, I’d probably start with a HaYesod class, although using the FFOZ television series A Promise of What is to Come is also an attractive option and has the benefit of being free.

    Going back to church as a Messianic Gentile is not something to take lightly and as Boaz says in his book, it is not something all Messianic Gentiles should do. Depending on your particular mindset and lifestyle, it requires a large number of sacrifices and accommodations. Just imagine being invited over to a church member’s house for dinner only to find the main food item is ham.

    My biggest challenge is even getting people in Sunday school to consider that traditional Christian doctrine isn’t the only lens through which to read the Bible. People aren’t even going to listen to you for the first few months up to a year. They have to know you’re committed to their community and that you’re not just some “fly by night” believer who has come among them to stir the pot and who doesn’t really care about the people in their church.

    I have a good friend who I meet with every couple of weeks over coffee and he’s been a great support to me. He has gone through similar experiences in attempting to integrate into a community while holding a very different perspective on scripture. Yet, his focus is always on God and that covers a great many things. Without that focus, then it’s just us thinking we know better than everyone else. I’ve received my “comeuppance” more than once when I focused on my own “knowledge” and not God.

  12. Wow that’s crazy! Even if you don’t adhere to the Kosher way of eating Ham is just bad for Health reasons too. But I can imagine how probably the dinner conversations could get so “spiritual” and lose its applicable meaning, or if the conversation got on something like football or whatever mundane lol.

    I will say Shabbat is a great way to get people who show interest in the Jewish roots of there faith, to soften there hearts towards the Jewish people and Messiah.

    Inviting your pastor over to Shabbat could help in his assessment of you or motives and HaShem can overtime soften the pastors heart. For your Davar Torah portion in Shabbat, you can discuss how Gentiles will be doing the Sabbath in Isaiah 56 or even use the FFOZ sabbath breaker book as a way to shed light on dark Christian dogma.

    That’s also awesome you have a support system.

    My family and I Adhere to a more Orthodox-Hasidic way of family life (modesty (no form fitting attire), vegetarian/Kosher, Charity, treating our parents like royalty, Singing, Dancing to HaShem and the Rebbe, Shabbat, Daily prayers, practicing restraint (something that’s a daily struggle against Yetzir Hara vs my Yetzir Tov)… And remembering ALL IS TO BE DONE WITH JOY!!! SIMCHA!!! 🙂 Judaism isn’t a ho hum lifestyle it’s an exciting one but the adversary would love to steal that Joy.

    But if 1 person out of that congregation sees the light because of your devotion to HaShem then Mazel Tov! Cause that one Sheep was the lost one among the many who were in the fold.

    Sukkot is another way to get Christians more into your world and having guest in a Sukkah is no better honor.

    Christians I know love celebrations. Shabbat and Sukkot could be a way for you to develop a even greater relationship with the Pastor.

    Just a thought or 2,

    Bruce

  13. Reblogged this on Morning Meditations and commented:

    I originally posted this last year, and while I’m not actively writing new material for the time being, I thought it important that we Christians consider why it is appropriate to mourn, alongside the Jewish people, the loss of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This year. Tisha b’Av begins on Saturday at sunset and ends at sunset on Sunday.

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