Tisha B’Av, while being a Jewish day of observance, is not exactly a day of rejoicing… but a day to remember.
Falling on the 9th day of the month of Av in the Hebraic calendar, Tisha B’Av is a date where many calamities have befallen the Jewish people. From the beginning of a 40 year period of wandering in the wilderness, to the violent end of the Bar Kochba revolvers in 133 A.D., to the expulsion of Jews from England, then Spain, to events of the Holocaust… it is a day of deep sadness.
Yet, perhaps the most commonly remembered tragedy that occurred on Tisha B’Av was the destruction of both the First and the Second Temples. The First Temple being destroyed by the Babylonians on the 9th of Av, and the Second Temple by the Romans on the 9th of Av.
Tisha B’Av is a day of deep sadness and mourning, of fasting and prayer… of repentance and remembrance.
The Great Revolt:
In the year 69 A.D., during the fourth year of what would be a five year Jewish revolt—the Great Revolt—against Roman oppressors, an interesting change occurred. Those involved in the revolt had a change of perception. The coinage they minted altered… and it wasn’t the usual aspects of date or design alterations. No. Their very perception of the war they were engaged in adjusted.
In the first three years of the revolt their coins read, ‘For the Freedom of Zion,’ a cry against their oppressors, a rally to fight back. Yet, in the fourth year this changed. Suddenly the coins began to read, ‘For the Redemption of Zion,’ a realization that Zion wasn’t merely occupied, it was taken over… and only God, THE redeemer, could save His people…
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” —1 Corinthians 3:16
In 70 A.D. the Great Revolt met its end via massive Roman forces, and on the 9th of Av the Second Temple was defiled and destroyed in retribution for years of Jewish resistance. It is estimated that close to one million Jews died in the mere five years the Great Revolt lasted. This massive loss of life, which included rabbinical leaders, along with the destruction of the Temple, caused the majority of the Jewish population to wander the world until 1948 when Israel once again became a nation.
Indeed, the 9th of Av of 70 A.D. is perhaps one of the most lamented events during Tisha B’Av, as it caused the children of Israel to be without a true home for nearly 1900 years!
From the First Temple that King Solomon built, to the Second Temple where a twelve-year-old boy named Jesus taught and astonished rabbis with His incredible insight and wisdom, on to God’s Temples of flesh… they have served, and continue to serve, as physical reminders of Him.
“Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”—Isaiah 2:3
While the loss of both the Frist and Second Temples on the 9th of Av is astonishing, it is also astonishing that despite centuries of destruction and oppression in Jerusalem, today we are discovering numerous artifacts from the former Temples that serve as earthen reminders of God. These artifacts, relating to Holy places—be they from early Temples rediscovered under the City of Jerusalem, or pieces of the priestly articles from the Second Temple period—reflect the beautiful pattern of God’s love for His creation, and in turn, the love of His creation for Him.
To Jews, the loss of this physical connection to God was, and is, incalculable. Not only because the Temples honored God, but because many Jews still do not know that His Temple can live within them. Without this knowledge the destruction of God’s earthly dwelling place is one of deep, unfathomable pain…
What can artifacts tell us that the Torah and Bible cannot? What is the connection to Tisha B’Av?
The answers display themselves for us, through both ancient texts of the Word, and the artifacts that remain as gifts from God to our earthen selves—a strengthening of faith.
When we read the Word, it is indeed living and active, but our conscious flesh-filled thoughts cannot always fully process it. Artifacts are one way God allows us to physically grasp the truth and magnitude of His Word.
One beautiful example of the Word brought to life this way is an incense shovel that was used over a thousand years ago—a continuation of practices and designs from the Temples. In Exodus 30:7-8 scripture says, “Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.”
The incense shovel, found in Magdala, is therefore not only an important archaeological discovery, but one of great spiritual significance. It shows the Jews following God’s commands despite having lost the Temple and land—their use of this shovel being a physical demonstration of their devotion and love to God.
Earlier artifacts found in Jerusalem tie us even closer to the two Temples. From an ivory pomegranate scepter top used in the First Temple, to a golden bell that the High Priest would have worn around the hem of his garment when inside the Temple… many physical reminders of the two Temples and God’s Word are discovered regularly.
These are physical gifts of God, and while they bring comfort, on Tisha B’Av, they are bittersweet reminders. The remembrance of what was lost is bitter, but the joy of retaining a piece of the past—a physical gift from God and a promise of the future—that is sweet.
“You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue… And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around. And it shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord and when he comes out, that he may not die.
“You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE LORD.”—Exodus 28:31, 33-36
Certainly, the loss of God’s Temple and Spirit gave the Jewish people cause to mourn on Tisha B’av. Yet, centuries of tragedy and anti-Semitism the world over also have a deep meaning to those who recognize the importance of the children of Abraham and God’s covenant with them. While Tisha B’av is a day of pain, through repentance and remembrance the light of God still shines through.