Usually, holidays are synonymous with celebration. We set aside those special times each year to spend time with friends and family and rejoice over the founding of nations, the accomplishments of our past, or simply because we are together. But not all holidays call for laughter. Some ask for tears.
The story of Tisha B’Av begins after the Israelites were liberated from the captivity of Egypt. After passing through the Red Sea and leaving the rule of Pharaoh behind, they made their way to Canaan — their promised land. But when they arrived, God told them they’d have to conquer Canaan to occupy it. The people found themselves on unfamiliar ground. Until recently, the only lives they’d known were the lives of slaves. So, they sent spies to get an idea of what they were up against — and the news wasn’t good. The spies told of a people so large, the Israelites were like grasshoppers in comparison. They told of land that devoured those who lived within it. They reported of a fight so great that victory was impossible. Their doubt was contagious and the people believed their promised land was unattainable. Despite God’s promise, they wept. This marked the birth of Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av — the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.
The ninth has gone down in Jewish history as a day of calamity, from the destruction of the temples to the start of World War 1. It is a day of remembrance that encourages observers to reconnect with their heritage. And while Tisha B’Av conveys a story of sorrow and regret, it also hints at another lesson: self-doubt can be your greatest enemy.
Religion is ultimately about faith and hope. It’s about believing that God can help you find success against all odds. It’s also about knowing that even if we fail, we can end up better for it. It certainly isn’t about saying “I can’t” before you’ve even tried.
Joshua and Caleb, two of the twelve men sent to spy on Canaan, shared a view different from their companions. They believed that the people could successfully take the land. And while they suffered wandering through the wilderness for 40 years due to the weeping of their people, they were also the only two of those original spies who settled in Canaan. They showed that by saying “we can,” they could.
I think that the lesson of Tisha B’Av is a powerful one, but there is something I admire even more about the annual fast. While most holidays are centered around good times, the 9th of Av is a day of reflection on the hardships of the Jewish people. It is a yearly tradition to remind you of where you came from and where you are going.
So, this 9th of Av, take a moment to remember the hardships, mistakes, and suffering of the people who came before you — not just of your bloodline, but of your nation. Remember your friends and their hardships, your parents and their trials, your children and the difficulties that simply come with growing up. Think about the challenges of those in other nations. The 9th of Av is ultimately a day to remember that life is tough, but you are tougher — and that by applying some faith in not only God but yourself, you can attain whatever good things are in store for you.
Robert Milligan believes that creativity is God’s gift to man. He loves writing about his thoughts and creating new worlds in his fiction that families and friends can visit together — because doing things together makes everything better.