The Night Is Dark

July 31st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 62 comments

It is helpful to discover that the child who seems irrationally scared of dogs was once bitten by a snarling mongrel. Knowing that Moslem forces were defeated when their siege of Vienna was repulsed on September 11th, 1683, helps make sense of their September 11, 2001 attack on the United States.  The past should not provide an excuse but it does provide insight.

After inconceivably vast numbers of casualties, Europe’s first Thirty Years War (1618—1648) ended with the Peace of Westphalia, the foundation of a fierce and formidable nation, Germany.  After even more unimaginable horror, Europe’s second Thirty Years War (1914—1945) ended with a remarkable and enduring peace.

Along with many knowledgeable professional historians, I view World War Two (1939-1945) not as a stand-alone event, but as the continuation of World War One.  Presciently, the great French military leader Marshal Ferdinand Foch who was present at the signing of the peace Treaty of Versailles, called it not a peace but a temporary twenty year cease-fire.  World War Two broke out twenty years and two months later.

That 20th century Thirty Years War, which included the utter destruction of thousands of European Jewish communities, was launched when Germany declared war on Russia on August 1st, 1914.  Till then, the year 1914 had its typical share of regional conflicts with pompous politicians and aristocrats posturing for prestige.  As in the first Thirty Years War, Germany’s war making ability changed everything.  That date on which worldwide conflict became inevitable, August 1st 1914, corresponded on the Hebrew calendar, to the 9th day of Av, in the year 5674.

That adds one more tragic event to the long and lamentable catalog of crime committed against the Jewish people on that particular date of the Jewish calendar.  Instead of a random distribution throughout the 12 months of the year, as you’d expect any nation’s disasters to occur, virtually all of Israel’s calamities have happened on or within a few days of the ninth of Av.  These include England expelling all its Jews in 1290, France doing the same in 1306, and Spain expelling its Jews in 1492.  The Nazi’s “Final Solution” to the Jewish problem was officially implemented on this day in 1941.  And so it goes, defying statistical odds for over two thousand years.

That date’s link to destiny began soon after the Exodus from Egypt.  In preparation for their assault on the Promised Land, Israel dispatched spies to obtain military intelligence on the challenge that lay ahead.  The spies returned with a dispiriting report of defensive fortifications and fierce occupants.  Instead of trusting in God, the people became unnerved and demoralized.  They wept.

The entire people raised their voices and cried out,
and the people wept on that night.
(Numbers 14:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that this night was indeed the 9th of Av and it was set aside for Jewish tragedies for all generations.

There is a street in South Tel Aviv called “The 93 Street”.  It is named after 92 young Jewish girls and their teacher who lived and died in Poland during World War II.  Here is what the New York Times wrote:

“Ninety-three Jewish girls and young Jewish women, the pupils and the teacher of a Beth Jacob School of Warsaw, Poland, chose mass suicide to escape being forced into prostitution by German soldiers, according to a letter from the teacher made public yesterday by Rabbi Leo Jung of the Jewish Center of New York City.

Declaring ‘it is good to live for God but it is also good to die for Him,’ the writer said, ‘All of us have poison. When the soldiers come we shall drink it. We have no fear.’

The letter, dated, August 11, 1942 [a few days after the ninth of Av] was received Tuesday by an official of the American Beth Jacob Committee, 131 W Eighty Sixth Street.

In part it read, ‘..When this letter will come into your hands, I shall not live anymore…we were given hot baths and were told that German soldiers would come tonight to visit us.  We yesterday swore to ourselves that we shall die together…The Germans do not know that our last bath was our purification before death….Say Kaddish [the Jewish prayer for the dead] for us, your 93 children. Soon we shall be with Mother Sarah.”

Recent scholarship has cast doubts upon whether this event happened exactly as described.  But that is of little account since the number of similar acts of horrible brutality that are fully documented is so vast as to be mind-numbingly incomprehensible.

So, if we Jews, both in Israel and in the diaspora find ourselves approaching the 9th of Av, starting tonight, Monday night July 31, 2017, with trepidation and even a little fear, there is good reason.  After all, the unfolding of history didn’t end with World War II.

Moslem terrorists killed nearly 100 Jews and injured hundreds of others on the 9th of Av 1994 when they destroyed the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires with a massive bomb.  In a traumatic episode of Jew against Jew, Israeli soldiers forcibly carried Jews out of their homes in Gush Katif, Gaza,  as this day ended in 2005, after the then Israeli government decided that returning all of Gaza to the Arabs would bring peace.  And so it goes…defying statistical odds.

What lies ahead? Nobody knows, but Jews everywhere will heave a sigh of relief as the stars come out this Tuesday evening.

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62 comments

Mike W says:

I pray that all Jews throughout the world will be safe during this desolate time and that the Guardian of the Doors of Israel will not permit even a single one of them to be harmed. No plan of terror or evil should succeed against God’s chosen people. Even the trees and rocks should protect them.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Blessings Mike
And thank you for your prayers. Being the ‘chosen people’ does mean that we are chosen to be judged and held to a higher standard. This means that even minor infractions, such as crying in cowardice, understandable for many, was a grievous sin for those who saw the Exodus, the Splitting of the Red Sea and the Revelation of Sinai.
Cordially
RDL

Rebecca Redmond says:

Amen

Ellen Dimmitt says:

I will be praying for this 9th of Av! I’m so grateful to you, Rabbi, for teaching me so much about history! In Christian alliance & love, Ellen D

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Ellen-
The past is sometimes the best lamp light we have to peer into the future. Thank you for your prayers.
Cordially
RDL

I have just finished Volume II of the History of the Jewish People from Yavneh to Pumbedisa published by ArtScroll. I read it (and Volume I) starting around the 17th of Tammuz. I have been thinking a lot about self-seeking and pleasure seeking as I read and scrutinizing my own heart and behavior for those issues. I have found myself this year being extra ordinarily grateful that Hashem does not hold on to his anger for ever. Since he calls us to walk in his ways I have been on the look out for ways to not hold on to my anger. I did not have far to look! In addition, I had two new opportunities to let go of my anger before next year’s 3 weeks rolls around. I have also been praying for my Jewish friends during this time as they grieve these generational losses.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Congratulations Gerry
on finding ways to demand more of yourself.
Thanks for your prayers-they are sorely needed
Cordially
RDL

Theresa Kahle says:

I so appreciate your connections of the times, seasons and history.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks Theresa-
for writing. I appreciate it.
Cordially
RDL

Chris Thompson says:

Very enlightening. Thank you.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks Chris-
Appreciate you taking the time to comment. I’m happy that it provided value.
Cordially
RDL

Art says:

Wow! Great history lesson!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Art–
as someone who hated history classes in school (along with pretty much everything else at school) I have come to value the study of history as one of the ways to gain greater insight into how the world REALLY works. Thanks for writing
Cordially
RDL

Norman & Glad Grey says:

Dear Rabbi Lapin,
My only comment is to tell you and Susan that I appreciate both of you and your wonderful insights. Your remarkable clarity makes understanding the world and Hashem and the relationship we have with Him, meaningful in just about EVERY way, even though that’s beyond any human beings’ ability.
Just recently, I heard, for the first time, (I may be one of the few who never heard it before) “There are NO ANSWERS in this World. And in the next world, there are NO QUESTIONS.”
Thank you and Susan for bringing us a taste of Olem Haba.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

How wonderful to hear from you Norman and Glad–
Susan and I have such fond memories of the Shabbat we spent together with Sam and Barbara in Atlanta a little while ago. It was an honor to meet you and a pleasure now to hear from you.
Thank you for your comment.
Cordially
RDL

sonyia says:

you are in my thoughts today and tomorrow and I would like you to know that I stand shoulder to shoulder with you, if even in spirit. and I ask God what I should pray. A prayer of intercessory? Like Abraham over Lot? For deliverance from those that wish to harm you. In Jesus name, amen. You are Israel and you are my brother.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Sonyia–
your prayers are so deeply appreciated.
Thanks for writing
Cordially
RDL

Mark Lampe says:

The 9th of Av, I had no idea and find it absolutely astounding! I have come to believe that there are no coincidences when it comes to the will of God and his people. Thanks again for sharing these astonishing insights Rabbi.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

So happy this resonated with you Mark,
Susan and I work hard on making sure that we make ancient Jewish wisdom accessible in practical and useful ways.
Appreciate you writing
Cordially
RDL

Polly says:

The evil that man is capeable of never fails to take my breath away. Blessings and safety to Jewish folks worldwide this 9th of Av.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Polly–
the fact that we are indeed capable of evil far beyond any other creature is proof in itself that we are created by God for a unique purpose. We are distinct and unique on the planet. Now we must become worthy of the distinction.
Thanks for your prayers
Cordially
RDL

Eckhart says:

Dear Rabbi,
I ike your writings.
The Jews seem to record the atrocities that they had to endure with a passion and make them a vital part of their history and identity – is that correct ?
The Christians seem to want to forget the atrocities that they had to endure with a passion and do not make them a part of their identity – as far as I can see.
The reason must be diffferences in religious perception.

Rabbi, can you help me detect the roots for this difference ?

Yours sincerely
Eckhart

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Eckhart–
Thanks for your letter.
I cannot address Christian theology so I cannot explain the difference–I can only explain why Jews do record all of events, both good and bad and make them a living part of our cultural heritage.
The reason is that we do not acknowledge the existence of coincidence . There is a reason why each thing happens. Some of us possess the ability to divine the reason and others not, but we all accept that there is a reason. In most cases, the recounting reminds us to examine our actions which are so often the cause of our tribulations. And in all cases we learn to bless God and thank Him for whatever he delivers to us.
Cordially
RDL

Don Gher says:

Daniel, my dear friend, I got chills reading this piece…you, Susan and your family are in Mary and my thoughts…

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

So good to hear from you Don,
and especially to know that we are in your thoughts, Susan and I cherish our long friendship
Warmest to Mary from us both,
Cordially
RDL

Brian Tucker says:

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

God bless you and all the Jewish people. My wife Joyce and I both get so much from your teachings and Susan’s musings. God said that he would bless anyone who blessed Israel, and curse anyone who curses Israel. I believe that the bible is the true word of God and that he keeps all his covenants. I pray not only that the USA will stand by Israel but that God will restore her original promised lands from Gaza to Turkey and from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. May he be with you on AV.

Brian

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Amen to all that, Brian–
(and it would certainly make for a more peaceful and prosperous Middle East!)
Cordially
RDL

Cy says:

The title of “The night is dark” made me think you were commenting on one of the medieval cults in Game of Thrones novels/shows. Their mantra, “The night is dark and full of terrors.” I suppose your title is not an uncommon phrase. Not trying to take away the content just couldn’t have been the only one to click thinking that and wanted to give you a heads up.
As always, I get so much from all of your content but love the podcast the most. I recommend it to everyone. I pray for you and the ministry.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks for your good words, Cy–
I have never seen Game of Thrones and so didn’t make the connection but had I thought of it (or known of it) I’d probably have selected another title so as not to cause inadvertent association.
Cordially
RDL

francis ansah says:

I thank you Rabbi and Susan for your insight into how the world REALLY works. I have learned from you never to give up hope in the face of terrible calamities and events and not be carried away by the tide of indifference. Your ajw teachings are bright lights shining with pinpoint accuracy on the malaise of this world.
Thank you.
Francis

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Francis-
You have been associated with us for very many years now and we appreciate your support.
Cordially
RDL

Susan Gilliland says:

Thank you for the powerful historical reminder to pray the next 24 hours especially for the Jewish people. We love you and stand with you and Susan and all your precious family.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Susan–
Thank you so much for your friendship which we so cherish-
Cordially
RDL

Ted Smith says:

Of course, there must be a ‘last’ Tisha B’Av (the most horrendous of all), which will trigger Zechariah 12:10-14, which, in turn, will trigger the return of the Messiah. After that the Jews will never ever have to fear that date again. But it won’t be tomorrow because the Christians (the orthodox and true ones) are still here. So, even if something bad does happen to a Jewish community it will be relatively minor in comparison. So lift up your eyes and rejoice.

Oh, by the way, I have prayed for you and Susan for years now. I don’t plan to stop.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks Ted,
well your prayers must be remarkably efficacious because Susan and I have no complaints. We thank you
Cordially
RDL

Dianne Pickford says:

I am so thankful that I just read this in time as the evening falls here in No. Calif.
My daughter and I will conduct a special prayer vigil tonight and tomorrow. I pray daily for the peace of Jerusalem and I praise God for “grafting” us Christians into the blessed vine of Abraham!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Dianne–
Thank you so much for your prayer vigil.
May God hearken to your words
Cordially
RDL

Lynn Perrizo says:

Rabbi, when did Masada happen? Was that the 9th of Av also? This is familiar info and I think I must have heard you speak on this subject either in one of your Ancient Jewish Wisdom shows or a podcast? The destruction of the Temples both happened on this date? I’ll be praying for you, Susan and your families and all of Jerusalem and Israel. Love your teachings. I learn so much. Blessings.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Lynn
We’re not even sure in exactly which year Masada fell to the Roman Legions. It may have been 73 or 74 AD and the ancient historian Josephus who is pretty much the only source we have for the events at the fortress of Masada, is notoriously flaky. We have no idea of what date it was.
Cordially
RDL

Crystal says:

Thank you for your vulnerability in writing this post.
I appreciate the history lesson and the wise insight, and will add my prayers, praying for all Jews, esp. those of you in important positions. If it helps any, right now it is 8:00 p.m. (July 31st) on the west coast, where I am.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Crystal
thank you so much for your prayers.
Cordially
RDL

Michael Ooten says:

Back when Beirut, Lebanon was being bombed by terrible cluster bombs and that beautiful golden city was suffering I just had a talk with evangelist Arthur Blessitt about his recent trip to Beirut and his words caused a deep sorrow in my heart. This was experienced on Venice Beavh and my steps were directed for the first time to your small synagogue
I was graciously helped with interpretation by David. So amazing it was Tish b AV Someone was reading Lamentations in Hebrew as I sat on the floor–the best place I could be going right along with my feelings. I am so sorry not to meet you that nite but Yaweh definitely met me!’ My wife says I worship Jews– such is one witness to His chosen people. It is great to read your words on history of your people with dates and battles– the hate-inhuman prejudice, torture and brutal murders prove that there is only Satan behind it all but somehow the good God is drawing many to Himself by His love and ever growing plan. My prayers for you and family for His safety and protection and great blessings.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Michael-
I am sorry I was not there the night you experienced Tisha B’Av at my synagogue on the beach in Venice. It was always a special observance.
Cordially
RDL

May the Lord protect you as the apple of His eye, you, His chosen people and precious possession – I hope I won’t offend you by ending this according to my beliefs – In Jesus Name I ask this – Amen Blessings upon you and all you love Rabbi – thank you for your wonderful teaching – this gentile is so grateful = )

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Not even close to being offended, Barbara–
More like appreciative for your blessing and friendship,
Cordially
RDL

Carl from SC says:

Howdy MY Rabbi-YOU and YOUR WIFE continue to challenge and enlighten me. SOOO GR8full to GOD for the first time I listened to you in SF. IT WAS WORTH GETTING UP FOR……
For that then and NOW it is always ‘Worth getting up for’
PS-How is Hanna?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Howdy Carl–
Hope your wife continues to make you the happiest man in South Carolina
When i was last in touch a few months ago, Hanna had gone through eye surgery but was doing great.
Cordially
RDL

Joyce R. says:

Even as I, a believer is Yeshua, join in mourning the evils done my Jewish elder brothers and sisters on Tisha b’Av, I look forward eagerly to the Most High’s redemption of the day, as He has promised, and turning it into a day of joy and shalom for all His people. Praying for blessings of shalom and chesed for you, Susan, and your whole family.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Joyce
your prayers and thoughts are so very welcome
Cordially
RDL

Frank says:

Its 8/1/2017 — I am throwing a white light (my way of saying a prayer) to you and your people. So far so good.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks Frank–
Yes, maybe another 9th of Av passes relatively tranquilly, I pray.
Cordially
RDL

Virginia Lee Blood says:

My soul grieves with you. I shall be in prayer for the Jewish people.
Blessings and love to you and Susan,

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Virginia Lee
May God bring peace soon,
Cordially
RDL

Edie Swenson says:

I don’t know how you folks can bear it. My prayers will be for you this day, right now.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

All good, Edie–
Thanks for your prayers
Cordially
RDL

Jerry Elolo Klu says:

Such connectedness resonating within what some would tag coincidence! Rabbi, you just shed a deep shaft of light on that Scripture. and your comment that as ‘chosen people’, it means much standard is expected of you, has got me thinking!

Your writings have blessed me.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Happy to hear from you Jerry-
Being chosen doesn’t always feel like such a privilege if you get my drift
Cordially
RDL

Tom Mitchell says:

I believe in one of your recent teachings you quoted Devarim 32;7 as one of the reasons to learn history — it’s a mitzvah! Be blessed.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks Tom-
Cordially
RDL

Jan says:

Hello RDL,
For Jews, is it morally acceptable for women to commit suicide in order to prevent being raped or worse?
Thank you for all you do. I enjoy your podcasts and emails. Interesting and thought-provoking.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Jan–
Let me start by telling you how much I appreciate your kind words. Now to your question:
I know it seems as if I am sidestepping your question but the answer would depend upon many possible variations in the circumstances. In the case described, it would have been clear to the 93 young women that their eventual fate was to be murdered. To employ and old-fashioned (but still relevant and true) formulation, the real choice was between dishonor and death or just death.
May God save us from ever having to make those choices.
Cordially,
RDL

Jan says:

Thank you for your reply. I have struggled with knowing what I should do in this type of situation (and other difficult situations also). “May God save us from ever having to make those choices,” is exactly my prayerful sentiment also.

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