Tisha B’Av

No, I didn’t fast.

In fact, I spent most of the day grazing because I was relentlessly hungry.  I’m not sure what was up with that.  (Refracted hunger from friends who were fasting?)

Part of the reason I didn’t fast was because I’m still “furtive,” and probably will be for another three or four months at least, so I had to work and continue normal life as normal, and part of the reason I didn’t is because I find fasting so physically taxing that I pretty much won’t do it unless I have to.  Given the nature of my chronic conditions, I don’t have a lot of margin in which I remain competent, compos mentis, and/or awake if I’m deprived of food or sleep.  I turn into a blithering hunk of protoplasm much quicker than a “normal” person does.  I tried fasting last Yom Kippur when I didn’t have to work, and nearly made it, but not quite until an hour after sundown, but it’s very hard.  I’m going to have to account for that eventually.

Nevertheless, I got to thinking about the basic meaning of the fast day, which is to commemorate the destruction of the Beit Ha’Mikdash the first and second times, among other calamities, like expulsions, pogroms, and phases of the Holocaust.  So.  The Beit Ha’Mikdash. 

The Temple Mount (Har Ha’Bayit) is one of the most hotly-contested pieces of religious real estate in the world.  Currently, it’s occupied by the Western Wall (many people in the West know this site as the “Wailing Wall”; in Hebrew it’s called the Kotel), the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, and the Dome of the Chain.  It’s the holiest site in Judaism, equivalent to the Islamic Kaaba in Mecca, and the third-holiest site in Islam.  Archaelogical evidence suggests that there were also pre-Jewish religious uses of the site, as well as Roman religious uses.  In Jerusalem, history is a palimpsest, usually with the subtexts still visible.

Currently, since the actual Temple Mount site is under Muslim control, and is covered by a mosque and two shrines, Jews cannot go there to worship, although every year on erev Simchat Torah, and on Tisha B’av, groups of Jews attempt to ascend and pray there.  They’re almost invariably arrested.  (To be perfectly fair, non-Muslims of any faith are prohibited from going there, as a Muslim work colleague of mine found out when he tried to get permission to bring a Christian friend, also a work colleague, into the Al-Aqsa mosque to show him around, and was flatly denied.  My colleague thinks this is very unfair, and I am inclined to agree.) 

It is a pretty central tenet of what passes for Jewish theology that Judaism needs its Beit Ha’Mikdash, although in the almost 2000 years since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Judaism has devoted much time and effort into developing halachic alternatives to the prescribed temple services and rituals, as prescribed in the Written Torah.  In Orthodoxy, these services and rituals are mentioned extensively in the normal synagogue services, at Shacharit (morning service) and on festivals.  Nevertheless, in Orthodoxy, Jews pray for the restoration of the Temple.  While this is not one of the 13 Principles of Jewish Faith, as articulated by Moses Maimonides (in Judaism, called the Rambam) it receives almost as much emphasis.

And so I got to thinking.  Suppose that the Temple really is restored in our lifetime (presumably this happens because Mashiach comes, although there really are organizations dedicated to trying to make this happen).  I can’t see how this would happen, but I’m not a psychic or a prophet, so I’ll just have to roll with it for now at least. 

Suddenly, a religion that has had no central authority since the abolishment of the Sanhedrin and its rabbinical patriarchate in the early 400s CE once again has a central authority, although given Judaism’s extremely longstanding tradition of argumentation and discussion, one wonders — even in a time of miracles — how authoritative this could be.  The required animal sacrifices wouldn’t be for the squeamish, and Jewish law regarding animal welfare may have evolved to the point where many rabbis would be reluctant to endorse it.  And there might still be debates about the legitimacy of, well, all of it.  (However, if we are also assuming the arrival of Moshiach, these problems would presumably work themselves out.) 

 Or, HaShem could just let Temple-goers do their thing, and Temple-abstainers continue the tradition of decentralised Judaism, each according to their interpretation of halacha, and say once again, “My children have defeated Me!“*



* I can’t say.  It’s not for me to speak for G-d, after all… ^_^  But there is at least some precedent.  In any case, absent rabbinical guidance here, presume I speak for my own speculations only, and not in any authoritative way, particularly on my own personal beliefs, which I am still figuring out.  Consult your rabbi for local listings details.


2 thoughts on “Tisha B’Av

  1. If you have chronic conditions that are negatively affected by fasting, you should not fast. In fact it’s considered wrong to fast if you have those conditions. Look up pikuach nefesh, and talk to your rabbi about it.


    • I’m not sure my chronic conditions are severe enough to warrant abstaining from fasting under grounds of pikuach nefesh, as I’m merely very uncomfortable and woozy, not in any danger of dying. I will be discussing it with the rabbi, though.


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