There are many ways to remember. Iyov offers advice for this day, the Ninth of Av. If you get to this post and the day is done, fear not! It is always a good time to remember.
One way to remember is to recount the events associated with Tisha b’Av according to details preserved in the Hebrew Bible. I do so below. Translations from the Hebrew are mine.
The sequence of events recounted in 2 Kings and Jeremiah unfolds like this (2 Kgs 25:1-26; Jer 38:28b, 39:3, 14; 52:1-27).
In the ninth year of King Zidqiyahu, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nabû-kudurri-uṣur king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. The siege lasted 18 months. The suffering grew ever more terrible. In the eleventh year of King Zidkiyahu, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, the hunger became unbearable, and the city was breached (Jer 52:6; 2 Kgs 24:20-25:4).
The famine and slaughter are graphically described in the book of the title Qinot (so-called in antiquity according to Jerome; referred to as Eichah, from its first word, today). Zion, matron of her people, reproves with unmatched bitterness the Author of the day. The following passage will make you weep, unless you are a wretched soul:
Look, Yahweh, and consider!
Whom did you treat in this way?
Must women eat their own fruit,
their dandled babes?
be slaughtered in my Lord’s sanctuary?
Young and old
lay prostrate in the streets.
fell to the sword.
You butchered them and you showed no pity.
You invite, as for a festival day,
my neighbors roundabout.
one who survived or escaped.
my enemy finished off. (Lam 2:20-22)
When the city was taken, the officers of the king of Babylon made their entry, and occupied the middle gate; in particular, Nergal-šarri-uṣur the governor of Sinmagir, Nabû-šarrussu-ukin the Rab-ša-rēši, and Nergal-šarri-uṣur the Rab-mugi (Jer 39:3).
Less than thirty days later, in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, Nabû-kudurri-uṣur’s deputy (Jer 52:12) Nabû-zēr-iddina arrived, and he burned the House of Yahweh and the Palace and all the large houses of Jerusalem to the ground (2 Kgs 25:8-9). The order was carried out on August 16, 586, the 7th of Av, according to 2 Kgs 25:8; the 10th of Av, according to Jeremiah 52:12; the 9th of Av, according to rabbinic tradition attested as early as Josephus (Antiquities, X, 135).
Today is the 9th of Av, a day of mourning, a day to remember, especially for those who believe that the future deliverer is to come from Zion, that twice-destroyed place, at which time all Israel will be saved.
One who so believed was the Christian Paul (Romans 11:25-27). It is he who says the day will come when “the Deliverer will come from Zion.”
The Chaldean forces tore down the walls of Jerusalem all about. Nabû-zēr-iddina forced everyone out of the city, leaving only a portion of the poor to tend the vines and work the fields. The furnishings of the Temple, the bronze and gold and silver vessels, were carried away. Nabû-zēr-iddina took Serayah the high priest, Zephanyahu the deputy priest, various other officials, and some of the common people, a total of 72, and had them brought to his lord at Riblah, to make an example of them. They were struck down and put to death (2 Kgs 25:10-20a).
Judah was forced from its land (2 Kgs 25:20b). Judah and Jerusalem were trashed. In the words of Qinot:
How is it she sits alone,
a city once full of folk.
a mistress among nations.
become a serf.
She weeps and weeps in the night,
tears on her cheek.
A supporter she has not
among all her friends.
became her enemies.
Dispersed is Judah, by poverty,
dire enslavement to escape.
has found no place of rest.
twixt narrow passes. (Lam 1:1-3)
Among them were Yirmeyahu the prophet and Baruch ben-Neriah his faithful scribe. But Yirmeyahu prophesied doom to all who escaped to Egypt. They were to remain in the land, and submit themselves to the Babylonian authorities. But Ishmael and those who followed him refused. They paid no heed to the voice of Yahweh according to Yirmeyahu (Jer 40:7-43:7).
The consolatory promises Yirmeyahu received after the first deportation, while confined to a prison compound thereafter (Jer 29-33), and now again after all seemed lost, ran contrary to the facts on the ground. Who can blame Ishmael and those who went with him for failing to remain in a land controlled by those who destroyed everything they once knew and loved?
Today we mourn. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.