Tag Archives: mourning

On the Passing of My Father

On April 19th, just a day short of his eighty-fifth birthday, my Dad died of complications related to cancer. It was sudden, so sudden that I found myself calling 911 and then administering CPR on his cold and pale body until the paramedics arrived.

They resuscitated him, but he never regained consciousness. We made the decision not to use extraordinary means to extend his life and let him pass.

Almost exactly two years before the day of his death, I wrote A Psalm for My Dad in response to his being hospitalized for a serious illness. My Mom told me that after he recovered, he printed out what I’d written and kept it with him. I found it on the end table next to his favorite chair after he died.

I have nothing profound to report, no theological cleverness nor doctrinal commentary to make. I’m just writing here to process my thoughts and feelings. The family interned his ashes last Saturday, but I don’t think I really said good-bye until just now. Actually, I’ve been writing a number of short fiction stories and added a few Facebook commentaries which, taken together, sum up my good-bye to Dad.

Click the link to the “psalm” to read more.

Good-bye, Dad. I miss you.

dad
© James Pyles
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It Takes a Child to Build the Temple

Yehuda Glick, head of the LIBA Movement for Freedom of Movement on the Temple Mount, expressed his satisfaction that “for the first time in three years the Temple Mount has been opened to Jews on Tisha b’Av.”

“300 Jews have already come, including MK Shuli Muallem-Refaeli (Jewish Home). Afterward, we went to Commander of the Old City, David Avi Biton, and expressed our appreciation of the wonderful work the police were doing today,” Glick added.

Earlier this morning, masked Arabs arrived at the Temple Mount throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the security forces. Police entered the area and dispersed the rioters. There were no casualties, and the police have remained in place to maintain order.

Last night the Jerusalem District Police arrested 27 Arabs suspected participating in the rioting in East Jerusalem.

Thus far, 457 suspects have been arrested for rioting, of which 160 have been served indictments. Additional arrests are anticipated.

“Temple Mount Open to Jews on 9th Av for First Time in 3 Years”
-found at VirtualJerusalem.com

I hadn’t planned to write on Tisha B’Av but the above-quoted article plus something else inspired me. To understand why, read this:

Tisha B’Av night we sit on the floor and read from the Book of Lamentations. In a mournful voice we chant “Alas, she sits in solitude! The city that was great with people has become like a widow. She weeps bitterly in the night and her tear is on her cheek.”

We grieve for our Temple that was destroyed. We recall a once golden Jerusalem that now sits in darkness, abandoned. The streets of the city run red with rivers of blood. Lamentations describes a glorious nation being led out in chains as the fires of destruction fill the air. We cry “for Mount Zion which lies desolate, foxes prowled over it.”

-Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
“Making Tisha B’Av Relevant”
Aish.com

Tisha B'Av
photo credit: Alex Levin http://www.artlevin.com

Observant Jews mourn the loss of both Solomon’s and Herod’s Temples on this date as well as commemorate many other tragedies that have occurred in Jewish history employing very specific practices. Personally, I’ve decided to fast but not to employ all of the traditions involved in Jewish observance to avoid giving the impression that I’m fulfilling the mitzvah. I fast, pray, and study in solidarity with the Jewish people, but I must consider their losses as theirs, not mine.

But while Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning, it is also a day of hope. The very fact that the Temple Mount was opened to Jews on Tisha B’Av for the first time in three years makes me want to smile, even though that is inconsistent with a state of mourning.

I did have to smile at the following, though:

My son was on the lookout the minute the plane touched down in Israel. I could see the ignited light in his little four-year-old eyes on the entire car ride from the airport as he viewed the Holy Land for the first time. He was a tiny man on a mission, to see the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Jewish Temple, he was always hearing about.

He learned in school the common Jewish notion that each mitzvah (good deed) a Jew performs adds a “brick” to rebuild the destroyed Temple. And he was expecting to see the third Temple in the process of being rebuilt, brick by brick, mitzvah by mitzvah. You can imagine how his face fell and heart was broken when we arrived at the site of the Kotel, the Western Wall.

-Beth Perkel (as told to her by R.S.)
“Searching for the Third Temple”
Aish.com

Some among Israeli Jews believe the Third Temple should be rebuilt right now, while others (including me) think when the Messiah comes (returns), he will build it.

But the wonderfully innocent audacity of a four-year old little boy expecting the bricks of the Temple to miraculously appear one by one as Jews all over the world perform mitzvot is an obviously literal interpretation of midrash and also the perfect faith only a child could have.

“Mommy, this is it?”

“What do you mean this is it?”

“Where is the Beit Hamikdash? All I see is a wall Mommy, where are the bricks we have been working for, where are all the extra bricks?”

“They are coming precious child, someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, they are coming.”

But my answer wasn’t enough. He stood transfixed, woefully unsatisfied, hoping somehow that the bricks would miraculously appear. When they didn’t, he wandered around, the only one moping at the Kotel during the precious moments of our short visit there.

Ultimately, this searching Jewish child actually did find the bricks to the Temple at the Yad La-shiryon tank museum at Latrun, or more specifically, in the memorial wall, in which each brick is a representation of the mesirat nefesh or the self-sacrifice of the soldiers who died defending Israel.

“Mommy, this is it! We found the bricks! These are the bricks for the Beit Hamikdash!”

It brought tears to my eyes. Somehow, his soul had understood something so deep on this very spot where soldiers throughout Jewish history, from the time of the Tanach onward, had died glorifying God’s name, defending the Jewish homeland and helping us take steps towards our destiny. I could see the radiance on his face. He had found it – the bricks that showed him that God’s promise of redemption was on its way.

Kotel
photo credit: Chabad.org

What will bring (back) the Messiah, what will rebuild the Temple, is hope, even during the darkest periods of life. That’s what Tisha B’Av is, hope in the darkness. Even as Jews study Lamentations by candlelight sitting on short stools (as is the custom), with some eyes welling with tears, there is always hope.

Hope is what has enabled the Jewish people to endure as a people for so long. Hope is what recreated the modern state of Israel from the sand and ashes of “Palestine”. Hope is what keeps the prophesy of Messiah alive and all that he will do to return the exiles, redeem God’s people, and restore the nation to its former glory.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)

Our hope is in the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth. That is the Jewish hope but it must be the hope for the rest of us, otherwise we have nothing, for “Salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22).

Hope is a four-year old boy who sees the “extra” bricks for building the Temple in the memorial of Israel’s honored fallen heroes.

May you have an easy fast.

Tisha B’Av, Lamentations, and Hope

How did Judaism manage to survive the destruction of its central sanctuary? According to the Book of Deuteronomy, which we always begin to read on the Shabbat before Tishah B’Av, it was to be the only link between heaven and earth. All sacrifices were to be offered there and no place else. The exclusive cult restricted to a single Temple seemed to reinforce the fragile belief in a single, omnipotent God…

…The destruction of his Temple in 586 B.C.E. could have ruptured the ties between God and Israel…

…I should like to suggest that the answer to this historical conundrum lies in the etymology of a single Hebrew word.

-Ismar Schorsch
“Transformation of Devir from Shrine to Book,” pg 583, August 1, 1998
Commentary on Torah Portion Devarim
Canon Without Closure: Torah Commentaries

Schorsch goes on to explain that the Hebrew word for the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and later the Temple is “devir”. He then traced a path from “devir” (Shrine) to “davar” (word), and across the ages to third century C.E. Babylonia and the founding of the rabbinic academy in Sura where the Persians used the proper noun “devir” for “book” (safra). For Judaism then, as Schorsch sees it, the survival mechanism employed once the Temple had been leveled by the Romans in 70 C.E. and the Jewish people were forcibly dispersed, was the investment in Talmud and Mishnah as the embodiment of the Holiness of the Temple; the conversion of the direct link between Jews and God from Shrine to Book.

This idea was also explored by the late Dr. Alan F. Segal in his book Rebecca’s Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World. Dr. Segal suggested that with the destruction of the Temple and the elimination of a Judaism centered around the sacrifices and the Aaronic priesthood, two new religions emerged: Gentile Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.

In a way, it’s not as farfetched an idea as it might seem but fails to take into account God’s planning for the continuation of His people Israel as well as the people of the nations who are called by His Name. While Judaism and Christianity both have “morphed” considerably over the past nearly two-thousand years and have traced divergent trajectories across history, we must remember that our course through space and time are always in the control of God and a single destination awaits us both: Messiah and the Kingdom.

As we rapidly approach the fast of Tisha B’Av, sorrow piles upon sorrow at the severe losses suffered by the Jewish people and the nation of Israel which, even now, is in a state of war and viciously maligned by the worldwide news media, multiple world leaders and celebrities, and people in general simply for defending themselves against the thousands of missiles and other attacks the terrorist group Hamas has launched against them.

And how do these events color Tisha B’Av this year? Like any other year, as Schorsch says elsewhere in his commentary:

No other religion is quite so self-critical. The Bible goes out of its way to record the flaws and errors of our people’s loftiest leaders. (pg 589)

As most of us should be doing whenever something goes wrong in our lives, the first place Israel looks for a cause when tragedy strikes is in the mirror and their relationship with God.

If a person sees that suffering befalls him, let him examine his deeds.

-Berachos 5a

Yes, one day the Messiah will rebuild the Temple, but it’s been so long and who knows when he will suddenly return? Yet in spite of all the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people across the long centuries, God has always preserved them in many and varied ways, including, I believe, through what we refer to as Rabbinic Judaism and a devotion to studying Torah and Mishnah.

Most Christians believe that any legitimate connection between the Jewish people and God crumbled with the Temple and that their only hope is conversion to Christianity and worship of Jesus Christ. For most people in the Church, Rabbinic Judaism in all its expressions is a dry and vain effort, bereft of any presence of God; an invention of men who “missed the boat” of Messiah, so to speak, and now are continually bailing water out of a slowly sinking ship.

Tisha b'Av at the Kotel 2007But let us suppose, on the eve of one of the most grief-stricken observances on the Jewish religious calendar, that God didn’t abandon His people Israel after the advent of Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem. Let us suppose that God chose to go into exile with His people, even as He maintained His presence among the devout ones of the Gentile disciples of Messiah. Is that so unreasonable an assumption? Does God have to abandon Sinai in order to occupy Calvary?

Hence when our sages read the story of Jacob and Esau as the tale of Israel and Rome in the time of the Christian emperors, as they did, they did not conceive that theirs was a reading distinct from the author’s original intention. And how could such a conception have taken root, when, after all, they knew that Torah, oral and written, came from God to Moses, or was the work of the Holy Spirit, or otherwise transcended the particularities of time, space, and circumstance?

-Jacob Neusner
from the Series Forward of (pg xii)
Israel After Calamity: The Book of Lamentations

Professor Neusner is attempting to explain to an audience with little knowledge of Mishnah how it is possible and even reasonable for the Sages to create interpretations of books of scripture that (apparently) couldn’t have been the author’s original intent, and yet have those interpretations be correct for the generation in which they were made (and later).

That requires believing that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit both encodes the Bible with messages that continually unfold with the passage of human history and believing that God really did infuse the Jewish sages with the authority, wisdom, and Spirit to create valid interpretations of the Bible after formal canonization was considered closed.

That’s a lot for most Christians to take in, since our general conceptual platform is founded on Greek thought and philosophy which is sort of a “connect the dots” way of thinking coupled with being “binary.” That is, things are either this way or that, left or right, up or down, and we continually move forward in time, leaving the past permanently preserved in amber, forever unchangeable, including by interpretation, as we progress step by step toward the return of Jesus. There is no room in our thinking for a God who can take both forks in a road simultaneously (with apologies to Yogi Berra).

If we accept that God is infinite, that God is Spirit, and believe all of the other supernatural and metaphysical things we’re supposed to believe, then it behooves us not to put God in a box (Schrödinger’s or any other kind), and make Him obey the rules we’ve created for the Bible and ourselves. If God is transcendent, then so is His Word and, for that matter, so is His relationship with His people Israel. God’s relationship with Israel survived the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. It can survive the destruction of Herod’s as well, plus such and thus many thousands of years hence.

Neusner’s book takes us through an analysis of Lamentations Rabbah, and in Parashah II Lamentations 2:3 (pp 95-6), we read:

But when the Israelites repent, the Holy One, blessed be he, will put the horns back in place: “All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up” (Ps. 75:11).

The horns which the Righteous One of the world had cut off [will be restored].

When will he restore them to their place?

When the Holy One, blessed be he, exalts the horn of his messiah: “And he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed” (1 Sam. 2:10).

grafted olivesEven in sorrow and mourning, Israel always has hope in the Promises of God for return and restoration, the promises of King Messiah and the New Covenant age.

This is purely poetic interpretation on my part, but when I read of the wicked horns being cut off and the righteous horns being restored by Messiah the Righteous One, I couldn’t help but think of this:

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

Romans 11:17-24 (NASB)

As it says in Tsvi Sadan’s book The Concealed Light (pg 212):

To call Messiah Horn (keren) is supported by “There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for My anointed” (Psalm 132:17 ESV).

But as it also says in Sadan’s book (pg 156):

Using the name Branch (netzer) for Messiah comes from a clear messianic prophecy that says: “There shall come forth a Rod (choter) from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch (netzer) shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1 ESV).

Played back over Lamentations Rabbah and Neusner’s commentary, we can see some obvious parallels to Yeshua (Jesus), but as I said, the connections are poetic and shouldn’t be taken for more than that. Still, we are pointed back to a hope for the Jewish people and the rest of the world, that out of the ashes of the Temple will rise a King, and lifted from the lakes and oceans of Jewish tears shed over hundreds and thousands of years is lifted up the Moshiach.

…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4 (NASB)

But Israel has a part to play:

Israel is responsible for its own condition but also can so act to atone for what it has done and so regain God’s favor. A covenant governs Israel’s relationship to God, and therefore the condition of the holy people. When the covenant is broken, the result is God’s punishment; but then, when Israel atones, the covenant makes clear, Israel will repair its disastrous condition.

-Neusner, pg 104

But while the focus of disaster, repentance, and atonement is upon Israel, this also has applications on individual lives:

Rabbi Yisroel Salanter would utilize every opportunity to gain mussar insights and to motivate himself to further self-improvement. There were many occurrences when most people would think nothing of them, but Rav Yisroel would gain some lesson for growth. Rav Yisroel once was in the home of a shoemaker late at night and observed how he was doing his work by the light of the candle that was almost going out. “Why are you still working?” Rav Yisroel asked him. “It is very late and soon the candle will be extinguished.”

The shoemaker replied, “As long as the candle is still burning it is still possible to accomplish and to mend.”

Rabbi Salanter was very moved by this, and said, “If for our physical needs as long as the candle is burning one keeps mending, all the more so for our souls, as long as the light of the soul is still going we must make every effort to accomplish and mend.”

After this he would frequently repeat to himself, “As long as the candle is lit, accomplish and mend.” (Tnuas Hamussar, vol.1, p.315-6)

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Utilize the hints of others for self-improvement,” pg 379
Commentary on Torah Portion Devarim
Growth Through Torah

From Tsvi Sadan’s book (pg 10) we learn:

Light (or) to describe Messiah comes from the well-known verse, “And God saw the light, that it was good” (Genesis 1:4). Puzzled by this good light that was created before the sun and moon, the sages were drawn to another unique light, which David talks about when he says, “In Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

This light within a light, says one midrash, is the light created on the first day, which David recognizes as King Messiah.

Yeshua also made this plain about himself:

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

John 8:12 (NASB)

light-ohrThis year, Tisha B’Av begins the evening of Monday, August 4th and ends some forty minutes after sundown the following day. We enter our own darkness when we face Jewish grief, for although the sin of baseless hatred caused the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jewish people, those acts of destruction were brought about by Gentiles. For the past twenty centuries, the Goyim, including the Christian Church, has been piling sorrow upon sorrow on the Jewish people and are at it to this very day.

The Jewish people fast, pray, and repent on Tisha B’Av but as the instruments of their suffering, we should fast, repent, and pray as well, entering our own darkness so we can recognize, through faith, the light of our hope.

The redemption of Israel and, through it, all the world, depends on how well man perceives and acts upon that faith.

-Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz

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.

Grieving with Israel

The blog at Artscroll.com published the following yesterday under the title “The Nation Grieves”:

Your brethren and the entire House of Israel shall bewail the conflagration.

Leviticus 10:6

We join Klal Yisrael in mourning the loss of the three Kedoshim. May Hashem comfort their parents and families among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem who share their grief. Their ordeal united all Jews in prayer and concern. May that Kiddush Hashem provide them at least a small measure of comfort.

This is the Jewish response to the terrible tragedy of the murders of Jewish yeshiva students Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrah by Arab terrorists, but it doesn’t go far enough.

This isn’t a Jewish tragedy or an Israeli tragedy, it’s the world’s tragedy and we should all mourn. To not acknowledge the outrageous injustice done in their killings and to fail to grieve over them as if they were our own sons would be to tacitly acknowledge and support the human monsters who committed such a heinous act.

I want to be angry. I want to seek revenge. I want to do something. But all I can summon to myself right now is a terrible weight that nearly paralyzes me. I can’t even imagine what the parents and other family members are going through, though as a father and grandfather, I know the feeling of terror at imagining my sons, my daughter, or my grandson being dead.

As a Gentile and a Christian, I don’t want to intrude on Israel’s collective grief but as I see it, the rest of the world has two choices: We either stand with Israel against all forms of terrorism, injustice, anti-Semitism, and Jew hatred or we stand with the murderers and criminals who seek to exterminate the Jewish people and wipe the nation of Israel from the face of the earth, may it never be.

And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse.

Genesis 12:3 (NASB)

This is the God of Creation speaking to the Patriarch Abraham about him, his descendants through Isaac and Jacob, the (future) tribes of Israel, and ultimately all of the Jewish people and their nation.

It’s popular in the liberal news and social media to speak of “being on the right side of history” and conversely, wanting to avoid “being on the wrong side.” But what about being on the right (or wrong) side of God?

My heart and prayers are with all the mourners as the funeral approaches. May the God of their Fathers comfort the parents and may the God of Israel bring justice and finally peace.

Beyond Tisha B’Av

Tisha b'Av at the Kotel 2007In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, “Take a scroll and write on it all the words which I have spoken to you concerning Israel and concerning Judah, and concerning all the nations, from the day I first spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day. Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

Now in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the Lord. Then Baruch read from the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the Lord in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the Lord’s house, to all the people.

Jeremiah 36:1-3, 9-10 (NASB)

For this our heart has become faint, for these things our eyes have grown dim. For Mount Zion, which has become desolate; foxes prowl over it. But You, O G‑d, remain forever; Your throne endures throughout the generations. Why do You forget us forever, forsake us so long? Restore us to You, O G‑d, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.

Lamentations 5:17-21 (Tanakh)

This year, the 9th of Av or Tisha B’Av begins at sundown on Monday, July 15th and ends on sundown on Tuesday the 16th. There is no more tragic day in the history of the Jewish people than Tisha B’Av. You can click the link I provided above to read the chronicles of this day of mourning for Israel, but I wanted to provide an additional perspective.

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Luke 21:20-24 (NASB)

When the Romans laid siege upon Jerusalem, when they breached her walls, when they utterly destroyed the Holy Temple, how many remembered these words Jesus spoke some forty years before? How many bewailed the tremendous loss, even as Jews all over the world have mourned for their losses since that time? What does the Kotel mean for millions of Jews today? And of the disciples of the Master who lived in the days of destruction, what happened next?

At its height, the Jerusalem community of disciples numbered around ten thousand. Several thousand of these spent the war years in Pella. Their migration back to Jerusalem probably did not happen all at once…

-D. Thomas Lancaster
from Torah Club Volume 6, Chronicles of the Apostles, pg 1135
read with Torah Portion Devarim
published by First Fruits of Zion

There is a three-week period of preparation for commemorating Tisha B’Av but what happens after the fast is over? Go on with regular life? Prepare for the coming week’s Torah reading? Anticipate the Days of Awe and the return of autumn?

After each tragedy, there is a long period of mourning and slow recovery. In the case of the vast majority of Jews after the destruction of Herod’s Temple, they must have struggled to understand how life could go on? How could they make the sacrifices commanded according to Torah? How could they worship God?

As Jewish history continued to unravel forward in time, almost all of the Jewish people were exiled from their land. Holy Jerusalem was renamed by the Romans “Aeilia Capitolina” as yet another insult to the Jews. Only a tiny remnant of Jewish people clung to life within the borders of Israel. According to Lancaster’s commentary, this included Jewish disciples of the Master.

Jewish disciples of our Master continued to live in Pella and the surrounding area at least into the fourth century. In his fourth-century treatise against heresies, Epiphanius complains about the Nazarene “heresy” which he describes as Jewish believers in Yeshua “who remain wholly Jewish and nothing else.”

-ibid

Tisha b'Av at the Kotel 2011Tragedy. Loss. Mourning. Adjustment. Hope.

But much past the fourth century, we must concede that the number of Jewish disciples of Jesus dwindled to few and then none. Like the Temple, Jerusalem, Israel and the Jewish people, Jewish faith in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Messiah went into a long exile and seemed completely lost forever.

But God is gracious. Nearly two years ago, on his blog, Rabbi Joshua Brumbach published a history of Jewish Rabbis who lived during the past several centuries who were also believers, and “who remained wholly Jewish and nothing else.” Both the first and second parts of Rabbis Who Thought For Themselves provide the beginning flickers of illumination after great darkness. Gentile Christianity has flourished in the centuries between the Temple’s destruction and the modern era and Judaism, though suffering greatly, continues to survive and even to thrive in various areas of our world.

But there has always been an enormous disconnect between the two.

That wound is very slowly healing.

In a very real way, Christians and devout Jews are all waiting for the same thing: the coming (or return) of the Jewish Messiah King. Our “visions” of just who is coming (or coming back) and what he will do are quite different, but the Messiah exists as an objective fact, regardless of our beliefs and dreams.

The world herself has been grieving for nearly two-thousand years awaiting the return of the Prince of Peace and the King of Righteousness to stop the bleeding, cease the wars, feed the hungry, and to bring repair and shalom to this broken planet…

…and to her broken people.

Thus said Cyrus king of Persia: Hashem, God of Heaven, has given to me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has commanded me to build Him a Temple in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of His entire people — may Hashem his God be with him, and let him go up!

2 Chronicles 36:23 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.

Revelation 22:20-21 (NASB)

May Messiah come soon and in our day, and may he heal the broken and the broken-hearted.

Amen.