lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
[personal profile] lethargic_man
Here is the basis for one of the things we mourn on the minor fast of the seventeenth of Tammuz (VI.2) :
And now Titus gave orders to his soldiers that were with him to dig up the foundations of the tower of Antonia, and make him a ready passage for his army to come up; while he himself had Josephus brought to him, (for he had been informed that on that very day, which was the seventeenth day of Panemus, [the Macedonian month corresponding to Tammuz] the sacrifice called "the Daily Sacrifice" had failed, and had not been offered to God, for want of men to offer it, and that the people were grievously troubled at it,)

What we don't tend to remember nowadays is what followed next, which is Titus bringing Josephus to the edge of the Temple in order, as he had done previously during the siege of the city (whose wall was now breached) to try and get the Zealots in the Temple precints to surrender, to spare the city and the Temple.

Some of the citizens and chief priests agreed to surrender, but Josephus's speech merely inflamed the Zealots, who proclaimed to those within the Temple that the ones who had surrendered had been butchered, which spread fear until Titus heard of it and brought them back from where he had sent them, to dispel the rumour.

The other date we associate with this period is that the Destruction of the Temple, of course, the ninth of Av (VI.4):

So Titus retired into the tower of Antonia, and resolved to storm the temple the next day, early in the morning, with his whole army, and to encamp round about the holy house. But as for that house, God had, for certain, long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of ages; it was the tenth day of the month Lous [the Macedonian month corresponding to Av], upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon.
Hang on a tick: the tenth of Av? Perhaps then it was the First Temple which was destroyed on the ninth of Av?
2 Kings 25:8-9 מלכים ב כה ח-ט
And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire. וּבַחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִישִׁי בְּשִׁבְעָה לַחֹדֶשׁ הִיא שְׁנַת תְּשַׁע־עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה לַמֶּלֶךְ נְבֻכַדְנֶאצַּר מֶלֶךְ־בָּבֶל בָּא נְבוּזַרְאֲדָן רַב־טַבָּחִים עֶבֶד מֶלֶךְ־בָּבֶל יְרוּשָׁלִָם׃ וַיִּשְׂרֹף אֶת־בֵּית־ה׳ וְאֶת־בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ וְאֵת כָּל־בָּתֵּי יְרוּשָׁלִַם וְאֶת־כָּל־בֵּית גָּדוֹל שָׂרַף בָּאֵשׁ׃
Maybe not, then: The Book of Kings seems to claim it was the seventh of Av. But Jeremiah also wrote an account of that. What date does he give?
Jeremiah 52:12-13 ירמיהו נב יב-יג
Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem, And burned the house of the LORD, and the king's house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire: וּבַחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִישִׁי בֶּעָשׂוֹר לַחֹדֶשׁ הִיא שְׁנַת תְּשַׁע־עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה לַמֶּלֶךְ נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר מֶלֶךְ־בָּבֶל בָּא נְבוּזַרְאֲדָן רַב־טַבָּחִים עָמַד לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ־בָּבֶל בִּירוּשָׁלִָם׃ וַיִּשְׂרֹף אֶת־בֵּית־ה׳ וְאֶת־בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ וְאֵת כָּל־בָּתֵּי יְרוּשָׁלִַם וְאֶת־כָּל־בֵּית הַגָּדוֹל שָׂרַף בָּאֵשׁ׃

He says it was the tenth! So where on earth does the traditional date of the ninth come from? I've heard the rabbis of the Talmud said Jeremiah was so upset at the Destruction he put the wrong date down, but that's no answer to satisfy me! This page pointed me at the Talmud's answer:

Taanit 29a א כט תענית
How then are these dates to be reconciled? On the seventh the heathens entered the Temple and ate therein and desecrated it throughout the seventh and eighth and towards dusk of the ninth they set fire to it and it continued to burn the whole of that day, as it says (Jer. 6:4): "Woe unto us! for the day goes away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out.". Rabbi Yoḥānān said, "Had I been alive in that generation, I would have fixed [the day of mourning] for the tenth [of Av], because the greater part of the Temple was burnt on that day." How do our Rabbis then [explain the choice of the 9th as the date]? The beginning of any misfortune [i.e. when the fire started] is of greater moment. ותניא אי אפשר לומר בשבעה שהרי כבר נאמר בעשור ואי אפשר לומר בעשור שהרי כבר נאמר בשבעה׃ הא כיצד בשבעה נכנסו נכרים להיכל ואכלו וקלקלו בו שביעי שמיני ותשיעי סמוך לחשכה הציתו בו את האור והיה דולק והולך כל היום כולו שנאמר (ירמיהו ו) אוי לנו כי פנה היום כי ינטו צללי ערב׃ והיינו דאמר רבי יוחנן אלמלי הייתי באותו הדור לא קבעתיו אלא בעשירי מפני שרובו של היכל בו נשרף׃ ורבנן אתחלתא דפורענותא עדיפא׃

My feelings are with Rabbi Yoḥānān on this issue.

Of course, it's not only the Temple that was destroyed in these fateful days; it's heartbreaking also to read of the destruction of the towers that had for so long marked the Jerusalem skyline: the fortress Antonia, next to the Temple, named for Mark Antony, and the three towers Herod built by today's Jaffa gate: Phasael (name after his brother who had committed suicide after being captured by the Persians), Mariamne (named after his wife whom he had killed) and Hippicus.

As I mentioned in my review, Josephus has the brand that set the Temple alight hurled by a soldier in defiance of Titus's wishes, and Titus then try and have the flames put out, only for his orders to go unheard in the hurly-burly. He concludes (VI.4):

And thus was the holy house burnt down, without Caesar's approbation.

I'm of the opinion, however, that Titus was at the absolute least concupiscent in the destruction of the Temple; Josephus lies here, because Titus is his patron by the time he's writing this, and he can't risk offending him.

Afterwards (VI.6):
All the soldiers had such vast quantities of the spoils which they had gotten by plunder, that in Syria a pound weight of gold was sold for half its former value.

The Colosseum in Rome was built with the proceeds from the plunder of Judaea. That building is a monument to the death and exile of countless Jews and the wrecking of their homeland, and it makes me very angry to walk into it nowadays and see a big crucifix commemorating the Christian martyrs whose death their at the hands of wild beasts there is not a shred of evidence for. (There is in other amphitheatres, but not the Colosseum).

[Josephus] Josephus notes         Jewish learning notes index


Date: 2012-08-20 05:23 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bluepork
I went to a shiur on the very subject (of why 9th Av is the chosen date) quite recently. Actually, now I think about it, it may have actually been on 9th Av. I can't remember any of the substance of it, and now I stop and think about it more, I may be getting it confused with another one I went to on the date of Shavuot. There's some link there. I'll have to figure out what!

Date: 2012-08-21 09:27 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bluepork
I've just spent ages googling, trying to remember what the shiur was about, and I'm finally starting to piece it together. There were some incredible ideas in there, so I'll send you an email once I've make some kind of coherent sense out of it.

The shiur I attended was on Shavuot, and a large part of it was a discussion of dates, but Yom Kippur is named and dated in the Torah. Neither Shavout nor 9 Av derive their dates from the Torah. This is why I'm sure the link was between Shavuot and Tisha B'Av.

In the meantime, have a look at this, which does point out some interesting links between the two days (none of which have anything to do with the Chief's shiur):

http://torahinmotion.org.c1.previewmysite.com/articles_dvarim/divrei_torah/archives/shavuot_bash.htm

Date: 2012-08-21 09:31 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bluepork
PS: Forgot to mention, the shiur was given by the Chief Rabbi.

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