Sunday, August 14, 2005

perspective on 9th of Av

My friend mark, who doesn't have a blog of his own, asked me to post this on my blog since he knows how popular I am and how many readers I have. His website is if you want to reach him. Here's his post:

Every year on Tisha Ba’av we hear a whole list of events that happened to the Jewish people on this day. Every year when I hear this incredible list, I always know that some of them are wrong. Most of the tragic events that have happened to Jews are attributed to the 9th of Av. Well, this year I decided I would look up and actually debunk any of these dates that were incorrect. In shul tonight the rabbi mentioned three events that occurred on Tisha Ba’av, 1) The expulsion from England, 2) The expulsion from Spain, 3) The start of WWI. I decided to look at each of these three events.

Claim 1) Expulsion from England, 1290
According to
“On 18 July 1290 every professing Jew in England was ordered out of the Realm, for ever, by King Edward I. Between sixteen and seventeen thousand Jews had to flee, and none dared return until four hundred years later.”

Now before we do any date calculations, we must remember that Europe wasn’t yet using the Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar is difficult to compute, so I will just give the facts and let someone else do the math. The Gregorian calendar added 10 days to the Julian calendar (October 4, 1582 to October 15, 1582) to correct for past mistakes. Therefore, date calculations using standard Jewish calendar programs will be off. According to, July 18, 1290 is the Hebrew day Av 2, 5050. That is obviously off because of the calendar switch. To get the correct date we must take off the ten days that were added so we get the original date. If we subtract 10 days and go back to Jul 7, 1290 to account for the date change we get Tammuz 20. Now this is tricky business as the Julian calendar was losing days over the years so it might not be exactly Jul 7. But since days were added, it cannot be forward in the calendar, and thus no later than Av 2. That isn’t Av 9 (in case you were wondering.)
Conclusion: False claim.

Claim 2) Expulsion from Spain, 1492
According to the Jewish expulsion from Spain was decreed on March 30 and occurred 4 months later on July 30, 1492. That date converts directly, and incorrectly, to Tammuz 26, 5252. If we subtract the necessary 10 days as before to July 19 we get Tammuz 15, 5252.
Conclusion: False claim.

Claim 3) The Start of WWI
This is a bit trickier. WWI didn’t start on a specific day really. It all depends on what day you consider the start of WWI. The whole of events in 1914 that began the war did occur around the time of Tisha Ba’av. Tisha Ba’av of that year was on August 1, 1914. The most important event was probably the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria. That occurred on June 28, 1914 ( The Austria-Hungary ultimatum to Serbia was July 23, 1914. The first country to declare war was Austria-Hungary on July 28, 1914. Russia mobilized on July 31. Germany declared war on Russia on Aug 1. Germany invaded Luxembourg on Aug 2. They declared war on France on Aug 3. UK declared war on Germany on Aug 4. The dates go on and on. So in there somewhere an event did happen on Tisha Ba’av. Was it the most important event that started WWI? No. Was it the first declaration of war? No. Was it the first troop movements or fighting? No. Was it the first official declaration of war by a major power? Yes. Does that mean WWI started on Tisha Ba’av? That’s up to you.
Conclusion: Has some historical basis, depends on your interpretation.

There are many more claims that people make but I don’t have time to go through them. Please comment on any other claims you have heard and we can look at those as well.


At 8/14/2005 11:27 AM, Anonymous Mark Dredze said...

Thanks for posting it.

At 8/18/2005 12:43 AM, Blogger Drew_Kaplan said...

That's really interesting. Thanks, Mark-Arona.


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