Fast of Tisha B'Ab and Bene Israel practices


Fast of Tisha B’Ab as practiced by The Bene Israel in India.

In India, amongst the Bene Israel, the fast of Tisha B'Ab was called Birda cha Roza. The legend goes that the Bene Israel who survived the ship wreck around 175 BCE near Navgaon on the Konkan Coast found sprouted beans (Birda) in the fields. They thus survived and were later given shelter by the villagers. To appreciate this kindness of G-d, the Bene Israel break the fast of Tisha B’Av eating sprouted beans (Birda). The unsprouted beans are called VAL.

Birda is a Marathi word for sprouted beans, Cha is a Marathi word meaning "of" whereas Roza is an Urdu word meaning "fast". This phrase indicates that the Bene Israel had good relations with their Hindu and Muslim neighbors.

Four of the six fasts relate to the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and destruction of the First Temple around 586 B.C.E. All the four fasts had been discontinued after the second Temple of Solomon was rebuilt between 520-516 BCE. The fasts were reinstated after the destruction of the second temple in 70 C.E.

The absence of the four fasts from the list of Bene Israel holidays/observances bearing Marathi names is one of the arguments in favor of the thesis that the ancestors of the Bene Israel arrived in India before 70 C.E.

Before starting the fast of Tisha B'Ab, the Bene Israel custom was to have their meals on banana leaves placed on the ground. Hard boiled egg curry and rice was a common dish as this is considered a mourners meal.

The typical meal when the fast is completed is Birda vegetable, coconut curry and rice.

Tisha B'Ab has been called the saddest day in Jewish History.

On this day in the year 1312 BCE, the generation of Jews who came out of Egypt under Moses' leadership 16 months earlier were condemned to die in the wilderness (midbar) and the entry into the Land of Israel was delayed for 40 years until the old generation died out.

According to Mishnah (Taanit, 4:6), five specific events occurred on the 9th of Ab that warrant fasting.
1.On this day, the 12 spies were sent by Moses to observe the land of Canaan. Two of the spies brought a “positive report”, but 10 of the spies brought an “evil report” about the land that caused the children of Israel to cry, panic and despair of ever entering the “Promised Land”. For this, they were punished by G-d that they would not enter the Promised Land and that for all generations the day would become one of crying and misfortune for the descendants of the Children of Israel, the Jewish people.2.Solomon’s First Temple and the Kingdom of Judah were destroyed by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar in 586BCE and the Judeans were sent into the Babylonian exile.3.The Second Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE scattering the people of Judea and commencing a 2000 year Jewish exile.4.The Bar Kochba’s revolt against Rome failed, and Bar Kochba was killed, as was Rabbi Akiva and many other important sages of the Mishnah, and Betar was destroyed.5.Following the siege of Jerusalem, the subsequent razing of Jerusalem occurred one year later.

According to the Talmud, the destruction of the Second Temple began on that date and was finally consumed by the flames on the next day—the Tenth of Ab.

Later Calamities on the 9th of Ab

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain proclaimed the Alhambra decree that all Jews should leave Spanish soil by the 9th of Ab in the year 1492.

The First World War started in 1914.

The declaration of the Crusades by Pope Urban 11 in 1095.

In 1290, King Edward signed the edict expelling Jews from England.

Classical Jewish sources maintain that the Jewish Messiah will be born on Tisha B’Ab.

Sephardic Jews and the Bene Israel read the Book of Job on the morning of Tisha B’Ab.

The Ashkenazim read the scroll of Eichah (Lamentations) during the evening services.

Contributed by Noreen Daniel


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