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    A Tishah B’Av alphabet

    AKIVA – Mishnaic rabbi, supporter of Bar Kochba; laughed to see foxes in the Temple ruins, saying that though the destruction had been prophesied, so had the redemption (Makkot 24b).

    ARZEI HaL’VANON (“Cedars of Lebanon”) – medieval poem recited on Tishah B’Av to recall ten scholars martyred by the Romans; another version is recited on Yom Kippur.

    AV – 5th month of the year; popular saying, “When Av commences, joy diminishes”; also known as M’nachem Av, “Av the Comforter”, since the Messiah will be born then.

    BABYLONIANS – destroyed the First Temple in 586 BCE and took many of the people into exile.

    BETAR – last Jewish fortress to fall to the Romans (135 CE) on 9 Av.

    CUSTOMS – during the 3 Weeks (q.v.), no weddings or celebrations; no shaving or haircutting; no buying or washing clothes; on 9 Av no greetings, wearing leather shoes, cosmetics, walking for pleasure, or marital relations; in the synagogue, lights are dimmed, drapes are removed, and people sit on low seats or the floor.

    ECHAH – elegiac Book of Lamentations, one of the 5 M’gillot (“Scrolls”); read to a sad melody on Tishah B’Av evening; 4 out of 5 chapters have an alphabetical acrostic; written by Jeremiah, who watched the destruction of the 1st Temple.

    ELI TZIYYON (“Let Zion mourn”) – the final kinnah, sung (despite its sad contents) to a joyous tune to symbolise the hope of redemption.

    FASTING – Tishah B’Av is a 25-hour fast; 3 other fasts (dawn to night) recall the Temple: 17 Tammuz, 3 Tishri, 10 Tevet. All will eventually be days of joy (Zech. 8:19).

    HAFTAROT – 3 weeks before 9 Av have haftarot of rebuke; then come 7 haftarot of comfort. The Tishah B’Av morning haftarah is Jer. 8-9; the afternoon haftarah is Isa. 55-56.

    HOLOCAUST – several rabbis have composed kinnot in memory of the Holocaust; Tishah B’Av is kept by some as a yahrzeit for the martyrs.

    JEREMIAH – witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and recorded it in Echah; a kinnah depicts him pleading with the patriarchs to pray for their descendants.

    JERUSALEM – a symbol of Jewish history and destiny; attacked by many enemies.

    KAMTZA/BAR-KAMTZA – similarly-named men whose quarrels symbolise the internal problems that helped the enemy to prevail (Talmud Gittin 55b-56a, Shabbat 119b).

    KINNOT – dirges read evening and morning on Tishah B’Av; they blame the enemy and also our own sinfulness (e.g. “You are righteous: we are shamefaced”); many recall medieval persecutions including book burnings.

    MARTYRS – commemorated in many of the kinnot (q.v.); even the burnt books are martyrs.

    MEAT AND WINE – not consumed during first 9 days of Av except for Shabbat; abstention is a mark of mourning.

    MESSIAH (“The Anointed One”) – the promised Redeemer, who will be born in Av.

    MOURNING – required during the 3 Weeks (q.v.); the mourning practices are partially lifted after midday on 9 B’Av.

    NACHEM – a prayer on Tishah B’Av afternoon calling Jerusalem a desolate city; some modern versions (eg by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren) use past tense referring to “the city that was desolate”.

    NINE DAYS – an intense period of mourning (except on Shabbat) leading up to Tishah B’Av.

    ROMANS – destroyers of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE.

    SE’UDAH MAFSEKET – the final meal before the fast; bread and hard-boiled eggs are eaten.

    SHABBAT CHAZON – the Shabbat before 9 Av; the haftarah is Chazon Yeshayahu – “Isaiah’s Vision” (Isa. 1).

    SHABBAT NACHAMU – the Shabbat after the fast; the haftarah is Nachamu Nachamu Ammi – “Comfort, comfort My people” (Isa. 40).

    SHACHARIT – morning service on the fast; tallit, tefillin and some blessings are omitted.

    SHEHECHEYANU – thanksgiving for something new, generally omitted in the 3 Weeks (q.v.).

    STUDY – on Tishah B’Av is restricted to sad subjects.

    SYNAGOGUE – on Tishah B’Av, the Ark curtain and reading desk cover are removed, the lighting is dimmed, worshippers sit on low stools or the floor.

    TA’ANIT (“Fast”) – a tractate of the Talmud listing sad events at this time of year; many later tragedies also occurred then.

    TEMPLE – the sanctuary and national symbol; destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the Romans in 70 CE. (See also here and here, and here.)

    TENTH AV – the day after the destruction, when the Temple ruins smouldered for hours.

    THREE WEEKS17 Tammuz-9 Av, known as Bein Ham’tzarim, “between the straits” (Lam. 1:3).

    TORAH READINGS – Tishah B’Av morning, Deut. 4:25-40; afternoon, Ex. 32:11-14.

    WEDDING – not held during the 3 Weeks (q.v.); engagements are permitted.

    ZIONIDESkinnot about Zion commencing with Judah HaLevi’s Tziyyon ha-lo tish’ali – “Zion, do you not care?”

    See also Rabbi Raymond Apple’s Tishah B’Av – A Guide to the Service.

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