Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Ninth of Av

The Ninth of Av

            Today is the anniversary of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 c.e. The Jewish revolt against Rome began in 66 c.e. By 70 the revolt was largely restricted to Jerusalem where the rebels took refuge behind its walls.  Roman forces under the command of the future Roman Emperor Titus (son of the then reigning Vespasian) encircled the city and laid siege, breaching the successive walls.  Josephus, in The Jewish Wars, provided a near contemporaneous and often eyewitness account of the war.  Still, there are basis for challenging some of his conclusions on the basis of pro-Roman bias.

            But back to the destruction of the Second Temple.  Likely it was not intended.  Rather, it is credibly thought that Titus looked forward to rededicating the complex to Roman gods, and that the destruction came about as a small fire quickly spread.  Almost certainly the Roman forces did enter the Temple before its destruction; the Arch of Titus in Rome features reliefs of Roman soldiers carrying the Menorah and the offering table that would have been in the Holy Place (just outside the Holy of Holies).  Regardless of intent, the destruction of the Temple (possibly the largest single building in use at that time) would forever change the path of Judaism, shifting it from a priest led and sacrificial faith to one of rabbinical study of the Torah and related commentary. 

          By the way, there is some dispute as to the dating of the destruction of the Second Temple; some put it at July 30, which is as well the anniversary of the effective date of the 1492 Alhambra Decree expelling the Jews (and the Muslims) from Spain.

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