For the week of August 1, 1998
9 Av 5758
From Sorrow to Joy
The people of Israel is a nation of survivors. Our history is full of sorrow, hardship and tragedy. The ninth day of the Jewish month Av (Hebrew: Tisha b'Av) stands out above all others in this vain. Several terrible events in Jewish history happened on this day, including the destruction of the first and second temples. Also the great Jewish City Betar was destroyed, the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, and the second World War began all on this day. In addition, tradition says that it was on this day that the people of Israel were denied access to the Promised Land.
Tisha b'Av is observed by many as a fast day (The Jewish day corresponds to the date of August 2 this year, being observed on the tenth of Av because the ninth is a Sabbath.). While it is not a God-commanded fast day, it is referred to in the book of Zechariah, which was written during the building of the second temple. In the seventh chapter a question was asked concerning whether or not this day of fasting should be still be observed. They asked this most likely because now that the people were returning to the Land and the Temple was being rebuilt, they wondered if fasting was still necessary.
God, speaking through Zechariah said that this and other days like it would no longer be days of sorrow but days of rejoicing.
Whether or not one observes these days, it is very important to grasp God's perspective on this. These days which have commemorated suffering and hardship would become days of joy and gladness.
As a people Israel has become obsessed with our suffering. We see ourselves as the scapegoat of the nations, born only to suffer. Having become paranoid, we think the world is out to get us. Times cannot stay good for too long before another Hitler will arise, we think.
We see days like Tisha b'Av as essential to not lose sight of these horrible facts. We think we might become be caught off guard somehow, resulting in more suffering.
This is understandable. For if the saying, "Once bitten, twice shy" is at all true, then what would be the effect of the amount of bites with which the Jewish people have been bitten.
But back to God's perspective. These mournful days would one day be days of joy and gladness. After suffering as much as the Jewish people have it is difficult to then to look forward to good times. Just like some depressed people become addicted to their depression, it is hard for many Jewish people to really hope for the kind of joy God has promised us.
Note what God says though at the end of the verse, "Therefore love truth and peace." God warns us that while we may commemorate the difficult times of the past, our affections must remain focused on the what is true and of peaceful. We should not become focused on tragedy and the chaotic events of the past. This is not to say that we should be glib and forget the road upon which we have traveled. But our hardships are not to be the essence and focus of our lives. Instead we need to continually look forward to the wonderful things God has in store for those who love him.
As we anticipate a wonderful future, we continue to go through hardships of various kinds. Some of our suffering is because of our own wrongdoing, and some of it is because we are God's people. We should then be able to understand what God has done for us through the Messiah. He took upon himself our sins and suffered unjustly so that we could be set free from guilt and eternal judgement.
It is only through him that we will see Tisha b'Av become the joyful day God said it would be. We read in the book of Hebrews:
Yeshua was able to keep his sights on what lay beyond his suffering. He can help us do the same.
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