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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Day of destruction observed with hope

Jews fast, grieve and focus on suffering on Tisha B'Av
By Christine Morente, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area

Today, many Jews are grieving, and have been fasting since Wednesday at sunset. Later, they will prostrate in their synagogues — bathed in candlelight — as they mourn past destructions and banishments.

It is Tisha B'Av, or the Ninth of Av, and is known as the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

"On Tisha B'Av, we focus on the fact that the current state of the world — the destruction, wars, spiritual emptiness — is unnatural," said Rabbi Yossi Marcus of Chabad of the North Peninsula in San Mateo. "On this day we focus on the absurdity of God's world, looking the way it currently does, and remember that there is a happy ending, a world of peace and goodness that we seek to usher in."

Two of the saddest events in Jewish history are the destruction of the First Temple, by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and the Second Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70, in Jerusalem. These events occurred about 556 years apart, and are said to have happened in the same month, Av — and on the ninth day.

The day also incorporates later tragedies and catastrophes such as the declaration of the Crusades by Pope Urban II in 1095, the burning of the Talmud in 1242, the Holocaust, and the Asociacin Mutua Israelita Argentina bombing by Arab terrorists on July 18, 1994 in Buenos Aires. Eighty-six people were killed, and more than 120 were wounded.

"It's done so that we're not in a constant state of mourning," said Rabbi Karen Citrin of Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo. "It's an important day to mark, because it's both about the historic meaning for the Jewish people, and it also acts as a kind of lens to look at the suffering that still exists today."

Her congregation on Wednesday focused on suffering outside the Jewish community. That night, they viewed "Invisible Children," a documentary about children in Uganda, living in fear of abduction.

"Our hope is to use the lessons of our past, and our own history to teach us we're still responsible for the suffering in our community ... today," Citrin said.

Tisha B'Av ends a three-week period of increasing mourning.

Some will adhere to restrictions which include: not eating or drinking, bathing, shaving, or wearing cosmetics. They are also not allowed to wear leather shoes, and are unable to smile and laugh.

Tonight, some local synagogues will read from the Book of Lamentations, written by Jeremiah the prophet. Traditionally, a part of the service will be done in candlelight, symbolizing the destruction that took place on Tisha B'Av.

Staff writer Christine Morente covers Religion, Belmont, San Carlos and Families. She can be reached at (650) 348-4333 or at cmorente@sanmateocountytimes

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