We are now going through the 21 days of what is called in Hebrew
“Yamey Bein HaMetzarim” – Days of Distress.
These 21 days refer to the period of time that passed between the breaking through the wall of Jerusalem on the 17th of the month of Tamuz and the destruction of both Temples on the 9th of the month of Av, which occurs this year this coming Sunday.
Actually the real Hebrew date is Saturday, but because of Shabbat, we postpone the fast and the mourning and have it on Sunday (starting Saturday night).
When the People of Israel were poised to enter the Land of Israel, Moshe sent out spies to investigate the land.
These spies returned slandering the Land of Israel and saying that G-d could not bequeath the Land to the Jewish People because its inhabitants were too strong.
That night the People of Israel cried.
The Midrash tells us that G-d said:
“You cried for nothing. I will establish for you a crying for generations.”
That night was the night of the 9th of Av – ‘Tish’a Be’Av”, the date of disaster in the Jewish calendar.
Below is a list of several awful things that happened to the Jewish People on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av – Tisha b’Av.
- THE SLANDER OF THE SPIES
This caused a decree to be issued that an entire generation could not enter the Land of Israel.
- DESTRUCTION OF THE FIRST TEMPLE
Bayis Rishon (Solomon’s First Temple) was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians on Tisha b’Av. 100,000 Jews were murdered and millions were exiled from Jerusalem. This happened in approximately 586 BCE.
- DESTRUCTION OF THE SECOND TEMPLE
Over 500 years later, the Second Temple) was razed by Romans, who were led by Titus. This time two million Jews were killed and a million were put into exile. This occurred in the year 70 CE.
- BAR KOCHBA MASSACRE
Soon after the destruction of the Secobd Temple, a group of Jews were led by Bar Kochba, in a revolt against the Roman Empire. The place of their last stand, Beitar, was completely destroyed on Tisha b’Av, as over 100,000 Jews were murdered.
- PLOWING OF THE TEMPLE GROUNDS
One year after Beitar on Tisha b’Av, General Turnus Rufus razed and plowed the Temple site and turned Jerusalem into a Pagan city, forbidding all Jews to enter it.
The First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II on Tisha B’Av. 10,000 Jews were killed in first month. The Crusades brought death and totally wiped out many communities in Rhineland and France.
- SPANISH EXPULSION
The Jews were expelled from Spain at the climax of the Inquisition in 1492 on Tisha b’Av.
- ENGLISH EXPULSION
In the year 1290, Tisha b’Av was the day the Jews were expelled from England.
- WARSAW GHETTO SENT TO TREBLINKA
On Tisha b’Av 1942, Jews were deported from the Warsaw Ghetto en masse to Treblinka Concentration Camp.
- THE FINAL SOLUTION
In 1941 on Tisha b’Av, Himmler got formal approval from the Nazis to proceed with “The Final Solution”, in which 6,000.000 people – a third of all living Jews died.
WHAT WAS THE MISTAKE OF THE SPIES?
There are two ways to perceive reality:
1. People can see Reality as it is (using their mind and senses as objectively as possible)
2. They can invent ‘Reality‘.
People can ‘film their own script,’ using their eyes as a camera to create a fantasy world, based on the pre-designed script.
This is what the spies did. They projected their own fantasy world onto reality, and made that fantasy into ‘reality.’
They initially wrote their own script in which G-d was unable to bequeath the Land to the Jewish People, and then they used their eyes to turn their fantasy into ‘Reality.’
PUTTING THE MOUTH BEFORE THE EYE
On the ninth of Av, we read the Book of Eicha (Lamentations) in the Synagogue.
Each of the four first chapters in Eicha is written alphabetically.
The first verse of each chapter begins with Aleph, the second with Bet, etc.
However, towards the end of the fourth chapter, there is a strange reversal of the alphabetical order. Instead of having the letter Ayin ע precede letter Peh פ, the order is reversed.
Here is the “normal” order, in which ע comes before פ:
Here is the “reversed” order, in which פ comes before ע
in the Book of Eicha:
סוּרוּ טָמֵא קָרְאוּ לָמוֹ, סוּרוּ סוּרוּ אַל-תִּגָּעוּ–כִּי נָצוּ, גַּם-נָעוּ אָמְרוּ, בַּגּוֹיִם, לֹא יוֹסִפוּ, לָגוּר
פְּנֵי יְהוָה חִלְּקָם, לֹא יוֹסִיף לְהַבִּיטָם; פְּנֵי כֹהֲנִים לֹא נָשָׂאוּ, וּזְקֵנִים לֹא חָנָנוּ
עוֹדֵינוּ תִּכְלֶינָה עֵינֵינוּ, אֶל-עֶזְרָתֵנוּ הָבֶל; בְּצִפִּיָּתֵנוּ צִפִּינוּ, אֶל-גּוֹי
‘Depart ye! unclean!’ men cried unto them, ‘Depart, depart, touch not’; yea, they fled away and wandered; men said among the nations: ‘They shall no more sojourn here.’
The anger of the LORD hath divided them; He will no more regard them; they respected not the persons of the priests, they were not gracious unto the elders.
As for us, our eyes do yet fail for our vain help; in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save.
In other words, the very structure of the Book of Eicha hints to the error of the spies – they put their mouths before their eyes!
The spies reversed the pattern of Reality.
They put the Peh – the mouth – before the Ayin – the eye.
They actually wrote their own false film script and then they saw what they had said.
When we cry on Tisha B’Av, we reverse the process that was the root of the evil of the spies:
Tears wash the eye clean, purifying the perception of the world.
And now a little bit of Hebrew:
Below are some expressions with the Hebrew words פה and עין
- By heart – בעל פה – ‘BE’AL PEH’
- In spite of… – אף על פי – ‘AF AL PEE’
- Completely full – מלא מפה לפה – ‘MALEH MIPEH LAPEH’
- Word of mouth – מפה לאוזן – ‘MIPEH LE’OZEN’
- May the evil eye not affect… – בלי עין הרע – ‘BLI AYIN HA’RA’
- Tete a tete – בארבע עיניים – ‘BE’ARBA EINAYIM’
- Generously – בעין יפה – ‘BE’AYIN YAFAH’
Watch a rare footage of people at the Wailing Wall chanting verses from “Eicha” more than 100 years ago.
צום קל ומועיל
Orly & Yoel
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