I wrote this when I was in college. It has some inaccuracies and some problems, but I thought I'd put it out there anyway... it has some interesting points. Comments are welcome, but please be polite.------
Okay, who are Trish and Bob?
No, wait. don't make this sound like the dating game. This is Tisha B'av, a holiday, not a couple. In fact, as holidays go, this one is pretty anti-couple.
Well, it's a sad day, so we don't do happy-couple things.
I see. So what IS Tisha B'av? What does the name mean?
Well, the name means "the ninth of Av" and Av is a Jewish month, following Tammuz and preceding Elul.
Pretty straightforward name, not too original.
No, not very, but then again, it's not a particularly happy day, not one you want to give a special name to..
What's so sad about it?
Well. The first and second temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on this day.
So we're mourning the tearing down of a building?
No, we're mourning a lot more. You see, the destruction of the temple not only meant losing a large war in a big way. It didn't even just mean a lot of deaths. It meant the destruction of a country and way of life.
But we're still Jews. They didn't destroy our way of life.
Wrong. Our way of life was centered around the sacrifices brought in the temple. If a person sinned unintentionally, they brought a sacrifice. On holidays, people brought sacrifices to the temple. The Cohanim lived and worked for the temple. When a woman gave birth to a baby, she brought a sacrifice, and when the high priest came out of the holy of holies on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, the day was suddenly transformed from the solemnest to the happiest day of the year, and the girls wore their white dresses and danced in the fields. On Sukkot, the simchat beit hashoeva was the happiest, biggest, most impressive party ever seen. No.Our way of life was destroyed. We rebuilt it, slowly, over a few hundred years, but it's nothing like how it was.
I see, I think. But why don't we build a new one?
Well, there are a lot of reasons. The first being that we don't know exactly where the holy of holies stood, and no one is allowed to go to that place -except the high priest on yom kippur in the afternoon service, that is. That's actually the best reason, because almost everything else can be worked around. We have the blue dye for the priests' clothing, we have the measurements for ever inch of the building.We don't have a red heifer, but we could probably get one, and even if we don't we could still offer sacrifices on the temple mount, because we're all equally impure...but we don't have the full knowledge that wee need to find the holy of holies, so it's all pointless.
so it's lost and gone forever? why?
Well. It's not forever. We tend to believe that when the messiah comes, we will rebuild it. But in answer to why, well. It seems like it was our own fault. You see, in the time of the first temple, the vast majority of the world was composed of idol-worshipers, and being very much into "cultural relativism" and "political correctness", we got into that too. I mean, we did some really bad stuff, to the point where within sight of our holiest place, the temple, we had human sacrifices going on. Pretty terrible, really. So G-d sent the Babylonians to put us in our place, or maybe to get us out of his. That was in 586 bce.
Now, these two guys, Ezra and Nechemia, decided to come back to Jerusalem and rebuild the Jewish nation both physically and spiritually. They did a nice job, rebuilt the temple, the country, and the nation. These were the people who began the custom of reading from the torah every week. They made a fairly spectacular second temple, which held up until 70ce.
Why was the second temple destroyed?
Well, you see, we got into a pattern of causeless hatred of our fellow man. For example, there was a case of two men with similar names being confused, and the wrong one being invited to a party. Instead of the host being hospitable and allowing the wrong guest to remain, the host publicly asked the man to leave the party, and when the man said he was willing to pay for his food rather than be embarrassed in such a way, the host refused, and made him leave.
That's pretty mean
Yeah, G-d thought so too, I suppose. That is, I suppose that G-d believed that a nation of people who would do such things wasn't a nation fit to be a "light unto the world", and since we weren't fulfilling our part of the bargain, the Romans were sent to help G-d stop fulfilling his. From then, 70ce, until 1948ce, we didn't have a country.
That's almost 2000 years
Yes, and in those two thousand years, the Jewish people has been persecuted over and over again, in every country in the world. The Crusades, The blood libels, the Spanish inquisition, the pogroms, the HOLOCAUST, and the list continues to build. Even in our own country, we are threatened daily. The independence war, the Yom Kippur war, the War of Attrition, the Six-Day War, the Munich Games Massacre, Entebbe, The Intifada, The scuds during the Gulf War, and the list of bus bombings seems endless. Even just in the past year, we've had three major bus bombings, and a huge bombing in one of the nation's busiest malls, not to mention the bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Argentina. (note: this was written in 1996 or 1997)
I see what you mean. Since the Romans expelled us from our land, it's all been one nightmare after another.
So what's it about this day that makes it so unlucky?
What? Isn't that a type of dance?
No. Lashon means tongue, and Hara means "the bad". That is, when you speak badly of someone or something, even if it's true, it's a sin, and it's called Lashon Hara
Where does THAT fit into Tisha B'av?
Well, before we came into Israel, we sent spies to check out the land. We sent 12, and ten came back with fairly lousy reports. In other words, they spoke out against the land G-d had promised us, a land flowing with milk and honey. Now the people got scared because of their reports, and thy started to cry. Supposedly, that day was the ninth of av, and G-d made sure that we had something Real to cry about on that day.
So, aside from crying, and not doing happy-couple things, what else do we do or not do on Tisha B'av?
Well, we don't bathe, shower, swim, or even wash our hands.
Wait, that's gross. You have to wash your hands when you come out of the bathroom, right?
Yes, but unless there is dirt on the hand, you can only wash from the knuckle to the top of the finger.
Okay, is there more?
Yes, you can't eat or drink anything, unless you are pregnant, nursing, under age 12, or sick. You have to read megillat Eycha, and kinot, and you can't wear leather shoes, and it's preferable to sit on low chairs.
Is that it?
Whew, that list was getting long. It seems like we have to be in total mourning.
We do. And doesn't it make sense to? Look at all we've lost.