Tisha B’Av, Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel, 1997
Tisha B’Av, Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel, 1997Click to Enlarge
Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, marks the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. This event happened almost 2,000 years ago, yet Jews around the world still mourn the loss every year on Tisha B’Av. And what better place to observe this day of mourning and fasting than at the Kotel Ha-Maaravi—the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.
In this picture, people have come from all over Israel to attend services at the Wall. In the foreground, you can see men reading from a Torah scroll that’s kept in a wooden case. Sephardic Jews traditionally use this type of container to hold the Torah, rather than the cloth coverings common among Ashkenazi Jews.
שַׁאֲלוּ, שְׁלוֹם יְרוּשָׁלִָם; יִשְׁלָיוּ, אֹהֲבָיִךְ.
יְהִי שָׁלוֹם בְּחֵילֵךְ; שַׁלְוָה, בְּאַרְמְנוֹתָיִךְ.
Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be at peace.
May there be well-being within your ramparts,
Peace in your citadels.”
– Psalms (Tehilim) 122:6-7
אִם אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְרוּשָׁלִָם– תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי.
תִּדְבַּק-לְשׁוֹנִי, לְחִכִּי– אִם-לֹא אֶזְכְּרֵכִי:
אִם-לֹא אַעֲלֶה, אֶת-יְרוּשָׁלִַם– עַל ראֹשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי.
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand wither;
Let my tongue stick to my palate
If I cease to think of you,
If I do not keep Jerusalem in memory
Even at my happiest hour.
– Psalms (Tehilim) 137:5-6
What then is Torah? It is a coat of many colors, a spiritual garb of infinite variety. Torah is the embodiment of Jewish thought and vision; the repository of Israel’s historic experiences; the vehicle of its communion with the Infinite; the medium of divine speech and human love; the authoritarian voice: Thou Shalt, Thou Shalt Not; the alternating currents of divine, thunderous wrath and the warmth of Messianic hopes and dreams for Israel and mankind. Torah is the distillation of the soul of Israel into the written word of its classic literature, in the Institutions in which it has taken shelter. But the Torah in the ideal cannot be chained to the written word nor contained wholly in the institutions designed for human beings. It is the indwelling of the divine spirit in living souls as expressed in the genius of Israel.
– Abraham A. Neuman, Landmarks and Goals: Historical Studies and Addresses