Change Tisha b’Av Ritual to Accommodate the Jews’ Return to Jerusalem? It’s Already Been Done

The traditional liturgy for today—the fast day of Tisha b’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples—includes a brief but central prayer describing Jerusalem as “laid waste of its dwellings, robbed of its glory, and desolate without inhabitants.” Since 1967, even some Orthodox Jews have advocated revising this text to accord better with today’s very different reality, although the majority have resisted change. Yet, argues Chaim Saiman, the observance of this day has changed radically, even in ultra-Orthodox circles, as evidenced, during the long interval between morning and late-afternoon/early-evening prayers, by the widespread practice of gathering in synagogue for lectures on the day’s themes or (for those in Israel) at the Western Wall to sing liturgical melodies.

Classically understood, Tisha b’Av . . . was not a time to feel close to God through Torah study, prayer, or thoughts of repentance as on the other fast days. Rather the focus . . . was on mourning, [enhanced by customs that produced] a disengagement from life and society and from any sense of routine. . . .

[T]he most dramatic shift in the tenor of Tisha b’Av has taken place in Israel, particularly at . . . what was once called the Wailing Wall. As the columnist known as Philologos notes, Western writers, Arabs, and Jews of the modern era all referred to the spot as the “Wailing Place” and then the “Wailing Wall,” following the Arabic appellation. Travelogues written in the 1870s indicate that wailing was the site’s primary activity—and not just on Tisha b’Av. Since 1967 however, Jews refer to it almost exclusively by the older, but less morose “Western Wall.”

In the past generation or two, the Wall has transformed from the focal point of Jewish wailing to the locus of Jewish pride, strength, and national resolve. The Wailing Wall is indeed no more. . . .

The afternoon videos and lectures and gatherings at the Wall [on Tisha b’Av] are all in tension with the spirit, if not the letter, of what until quite recently were accepted halakhic norms. [They] aim to create a more relevant and spiritually “productive” day, [drawing] on the modern preference for more affirming and engaging religious experiences. . . . Thus, the day that classical halakhah portrays as forlorn and empty, devoid of community, Torah, and song, is now commemorated—we might even say celebrated—through Torah study, community building, and [even] song.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Tisha b'Av, Western Wall

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7