…Should I weep in the fifth month [Av], separating myself, as I have done these so many years?
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…
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”
You 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.
But 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)
Yesterday, 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…”
“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.
Our 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.