Shabbat Devarim

Candles 7:37pm
Havdalah 8:31pm
Fast of Tisha B’Av Starts Saturday 8pm. Ends Sunday 8:27pm
Maariv and Lamentations Saturday night at 9pm

The Ninth of Av, Tisha B’Av is the most important fast in our calendar after Yom Kipur. It commemorates the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple and the loss of our land twice in our history. In 586 BCE at the hands of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. And in 70 CE by the Romans under Vespasian and Titus his son.

For Persian Jewry, exile to what was first Babylon and then became part of the Persian Empire, was the start of the history of the longest lasting community outside Israel. It had its ups and downs, periods of peace and periods of oppression. But it is a heritage we are justly very proud of.

There are many Persian traditions that other communities do not have. Particularly in respect of Mordechai and Esther. But one I had never heard of before I joined our community was that of Sarach Bat Asher. She is mentioned in the Torah as Jacob’s granddaughter. But whenever a woman is mentioned in the Bible it is always because she was a remarkable and impressive person in her own right even when new may have lost the specific details of her achievements.

The Midrash says she was the longest living female ever and that she was present when Joseph died. She was the only person three hundred years later who knew where he was buried so that his bones could be taken out of Egypt and buried in Israel. I don’t think we are meant to take this literally any more than another strictly Persian story.

Sarach it seems discovered an underground passage all the way to Babylon that enabled the exiles to travel to their new homes avoiding the scorching heat of the desert. The idea behind these stories is the importance of memory and tradition.

The Talmud tells that on both occasions when our temples and land were destroyed it was because we were let down both by our political and our religious leaders who made bad decisions and by the uncharitable and selfish attitude of our own people.

We will fast on Saturday night and Sunday and pray we learn from our mistakes.

Shabbat Shalom and fast well.