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The Iran Deal and the Hebrew Calendar
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

The Iran Deal and the Hebrew Calendar

It’s no accident that the deal was finalized only last week.


Deadlines came and went before the deal with Iran was finalized last week.

The initial interim agreement set a July deadline in 2014. That was extended to November, then to April 2015, followed by a “final deadline” of June 30, ignored once again and pushed off to July 7. But even that didn’t happen. It wasn’t until Tuesday, July 14 that Iran and the world powers announced they had sealed a final nuclear deal with Tehran that will lift most economic sanctions on the country and permit it to continue many of the most controversial aspects of its nuclear program, as well as its missile development.

And for those of us sensitive to divine messages implicit in seemingly meaningless “coincidences” of the calendar this almost bizarre aspect of the date on which the deal with Iran was at long last finalized represents perhaps one of the most powerful verdicts of this agreement’s place in history.

Jewish tradition acknowledges that God makes his voice heard in many different ways. One of them is by way of the connection between events and the calendar, between the linkage of a day’s meaning to its historic significance.

In just a few days Jews around the world will be observing Tisha b’Av, the fast of the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. It is a day of tragic remembrance. On that day the first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. That alone would have been enough for it to become marked as a day of fasting and mourning. But history reconfirmed Tisha b’Av’s tragic reality five centuries later. When the Romans approached the second temple and put it to the torch, the Jews were shocked to realize that their second temple was destroyed on exactly the same day as the first.

Jews are meant to understand that history has divine meaning and incorporates heavenly messages. Coincidence is a concept utterly foreign to those who believe that God governs the universe.

When the Jews rebelled against Roman rule, they believed that their leader, Simon bar Kochba, would fulfill their messianic longings. But their hopes were cruelly dashed in 135 CE as the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in the final battle at Beitar. The date of the massacre? The ninth of Av!

The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE on, once again, the ninth day of Av. In 1492, the Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land “for the greater glory of the church and the Christian religion.” The edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country. The Hebrew date on which no Jews were allowed any longer to remain in the land where they had enjoyed welcome and prosperity for centuries? By now you know it – the ninth of Av.

Ready for just one more? World War II and the Holocaust, historians conclude, were actually the long drawn out conclusion of World War I which began in 1914. Barbara Tuchman wrote a book about that first great world war, which she called The Guns of August. Had a Jewish scholar written the book, perhaps it would have been titled with a date more specific than just a month. Yes, amazingly enough, the First World War also began according to the Hebrew calendar on Tisha b’Av.

What are we to make of all this? For Jews it is a profound confirmation of the deeply held conviction that history isn’t haphazard. Events have spiritual meaning. Their calendrical correspondence defines them.

And what is important to note is that the mourning period associated with Tisha b’Av is not limited to one day but is in fact but the close of a three week period of sadness and sorrow. The time of our grief begins with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz. That was the day on which the walls of Jerusalem were breached. That was the beginning of the end – and the sages were smart enough to recognize that the wise mourn the imminence of a catastrophic event even before its actual occurrence. Tragedy is not only the day when the temple physically burns to the ground; we need to weep when the potential for its destruction becomes obvious as well.

The three weeks in Jewish history which serve as prelude to Tisha b’Av represent the time to mourn for the breakdown of those walls which protected the Temple and the source of the world’s spiritual sanctity. And that, I believe in all certainty, is why the deal with Iran – a deal which Charles Krauthammer called “the worst agreement in United States diplomatic history” and a deal which Prime Minister of Israel Netanyahu believes has the grave potential to bring about a nuclear Holocaust of global proportion – wasn’t concluded until its connection to the mourning period of the three weeks was clearly established.

It is the Jewish calendar which delivers a clear warning of the deals disastrous potential. We can only pray that the world’s leaders heed its message.

July 18, 2015

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Visitor Comments: 40

(25) Sam, July 28, 2016 11:14 PM

Maybe the Iran Deal is not a curse

As we continue to allow politics to take the better part of us, we must remember the first Tisha B'Av happened because Jews spoke Lashon Hara after they heard the report of the spies.
Maybe the Iran Deal is not designed to be a curse, but a stepping stone. And that means, talking about it as the end of the Jewish people could be the real curse. It pays to be skeptical. But no bad thing can destroy the Jewish people unless the Jewish people throw away the protection of Hashem and take on doubt and evil speech.
100 years ago, the rifle was the most destructive thing in the world. 70 years ago, the atomic bomb was the most feared weapon. But today, the nuclear bombs and advanced WMD dwarfs the rifle and the atomic bomb. So there is a solution to the nuclear weapon threat and something worse than the nuclear weapon will come up in future. So let us not all look to evil reports.
Let us pray and fast fervently on Tisha B'Av. Hashem is more than capable of giving us a solution that will make us look back at Iran in 70 years and laugh.

(24) Andrew Elishahff, July 15, 2016 10:00 AM


Just saw this and in hindsight there is another interesting connection:

The Senate Democrats sealed the deal at the end of the last shmita year:

The previous shmita year ended with the financial collapse.

The end of the shmita year prior to that coincided with 9/11.....

(23) Gene, March 12, 2016 4:33 PM

why accept?

That is what I wonder also. Do we have to accept that Av curse on us?
We seem able to "turn the Tide" on so many other fronts why do we let that one exist? isn't it better to at least know and prepare for enemy activity and build protection? Don't we have a positive injection for our true spiritual selves so we expel apathy and heavyheartedness at that time? Is it the time of year we are sated into a lax attitude?

(22) Anonymous, July 27, 2015 8:36 PM

Get your facts straight

Barbara Tuchman is Jewish...
And I have a feeling Bibi's policies will always be more dangerous to Jewish safety and prosperity than Iran.

(21) Eliie, July 26, 2015 7:01 AM

Thoughts Become Things

If we keep pouring attention and energy into the fact that "bad things happen on Tisha B'Av", then bad things will continue to happen on Tisha B'Av. Of all the people in the world, klal Yisrael has the ability to visualize good. Only when we collectively change our thinking to positive, will the Moshiach bring us to geulah. It is up to is.

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