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Tish'ah Be'Av (the 9th of Av) is a day burdened with grief. On this day, the first Temple was destroyed by Babylonians and the second Temple by Romans. Numerous other disasters have also fallen on this day, culminating in the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Tish'ah Be'Av is only one day, but its sorrow permeates the whole Jewish year. Because the Temple was destroyed, the traditional synagogue still excludes instrumental music from its services, the tallit (prayer shawl) commonly incorporates black stripes, and the daily prayers always include a plea for the Temple's restoration.
Paradoxically, Judaism remains a religion of optimism. Perhaps this is because we do not see these calamities as meaninglesss disasters, but believe that they are part of God's larger purpose. The mourning of Tish'ah Be'Av is ancient, but not endless; history is steadily moving toward fulfillment. The reading for Tish'ah Be'Av is the book of Lamentations, which contains five chapters, each of whichexcept chapter 3contains twenty-two verses. These chapters parallel the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alef-bet (alphabet). The third chapter contains sixty-six verses (three times twenty-two). Thus Jeremiah invokes the entire alef-bet seven times in his lament over Jerusalem.
At the climax of his lament the writer reveals a message of hope, saying "For rejection by Adonai does not last forever. He may cause grief, but he will take pity, in keeping with the greatness of his grace" (Lamentations 3:31-32). Scripture recognizes tragedy and grief, but its final note is always hope.
...pray for the full restoration of Jerusalem and of the Jewish people. I will believe in God's unchanging mercy, even when it is not apparent.