Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Seventh Of Av

One Scriptural verse (Kings II 25:8-9) notes that the Babylonians came to the Temple Mount on the 7th of Av while another verse ( Jeremiah 25:12) claims it was on the 10th of the month. So how do we resolve these two different dates?

The Talmud (Ta’anit 29a) explains that on the 7th of Av the Babylonians entered the Temple’s precincts eating and drinking and defiling it through dusk on the 9th of the month. At the very end of the 9th of Av, they set fire to the Temple. That conflagration burned through the 10th of the month.

Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, American scholar and editor of The Lord is Righteous in All of His Ways: Reflections on the Tish’ah be-Av Kinot (elegies) by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, spends much of the day every Tisha B’Av, 9th of Av, teaching of the events of the day and their causes (you can follow his teaching at this coming Sunday.) In his book, he cites a comment by Rabbi Soloveitchik, noting that the Romans breached the walls on the 17th of Tammuz. “This means that it took the Romans, with their powerful legions and best troops, three weeks to get from the wall surrounding Jerusalem to the Temple Mount. How far is that distance? You can cover the distance in ten minutes at most. This means that it took the best, most powerful, Roman legions (they sent their best military force to conquer Jerusalem) twenty-one days to prevail! The Jews had nothing and fought with their bare hands, and it still took the Romans twenty-one days to get to the Temple Mount.”

Rabbi Dr. Schacter himself observed that the priests in the Temple held the massive enemy armies at bay for 3 days, since the Talmud notes (Ibid.) that the Babylonian troops entered the precincts of the Temple on the 7th of Av and only succeeded in burning down the Temple three days later. The Babylonians could not advance a few feet due to the fierce battling of a small band of priests.

The Talmud (Ibid.) relates the end of the story. “When the First Temple was about to be destroyed, bands upon bands of young priests with the keys of the Temple in their hands assembled and mounted the roof of the Temple and exclaimed, ‘Master of the Universe, as we did not have the merit to be faithful treasurers, these keys are handed back into Your keeping.’ They then threw the keys up toward heaven. And there emerged the figure of a hand and received the keys from them. Whereupon they jumped and fell into the fire.”

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