Taanit, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six

 

Introduction

This mishnah lists events that occurred and are therefore commemorated on two fast days—the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of Av.  There are two connections between this mishnah and the rest of the tractate.  First of all, this is tractate Taanit, so it is a natural place for the mishnah to discuss fast days. Secondly, the previous mishnah dealt with the importance of specific dates.

 

Mishnah Six

There were five events that happened to our ancestors on the seventeenth of Tammuz and five on the ninth of Av.

1)      On the seventeenth of Tammuz:

i)        The tablets were shattered;

ii)       The tamid (daily) offering was cancelled;

iii)     The [walls] of the city were breached;

iv)     And Apostomos burned the Torah,

v)      and placed an idol in the Temple.

2)      On the ninth of Av

i)        It was decreed that our ancestors should not enter the land,

ii)       The Temple was destroyed the first

iii)     And the second time,

iv)     Betar was captured,

v)      And the city was plowed up.

3)      When Av enters, they limit their rejoicing.

 

Explanation

Section one: There were five events that occurred on the seventeenth of Tammuz, which is considered a “minor” fast day, because the fast begins only at sunrise and the only prohibition is eating and drinking. 1)  Moshe broke the first set of tablets.  2)  On the seventeenth of Tammuz, shortly before the Second Temple was destroyed, they ran out of sheep to sacrifice and hence they had to cancel the tamid, the daily offering. 3) The Romans breached the walls of the city of Jerusalem.  4)  Apostomos, an unidentified Greek or Roman burned a Torah scroll and 5) placed an idol in the Temple.  The placing of an idol in the Temple by foreign rulers happened on several occasions throughout both the First and teh Second Temple period and hence it is impossible to identify with precision who Apostomos was.  Indeed, according to the Yerushalmi it was not Apostomos who put the idol in the Templ but rather Menashe, the king of Israel—see II Kings 21:7.

Section two:   There were five events that occurred on the ninth of Av, which besides Yom Kippur is the only major fast in the Jewish calendar.  1)  After the people of Israel believed the bad report of the ten spies over that of Joshua and Caleb, God decreed that no one over the age of twenty would make it into the land of Canaan (see Numbers 14:29).  2 +3)  Both Temples were destroyed, the first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the second by the Romans in 70 C.E.  The first Temple was set aflame on the ninth and burnt on the Tenth—see Jeremiah 52:12-13.  4) Betar, an important Jewish stronghold during the Bar-Kochba revolt fell to the Romans.  5)  After the Bar Kochba rebellion was defeated, the Romans plowed over the city, destroying any remaining buildings and quashing any hopes that the Temple would be rebuilt.

Section three: Av is the counterpart to Adar. When the month of Adar begins we increase our celebration, in anticipation of Purim, a holiday of salvation.  When the month of Av enters, we decrease celebrations, on account of Tisha B’av, the greatest day of mourning on the Jewish calendar.  In tomorrow’s mishnah we will learn of some mourning practices customary during the first nine days of Av.        

 

 

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