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Marking Tisha B'Av at Congregation Ahavas Israel

Near the end of the fast of Tisha B'Av, the men of Congregation Ahavas Israel, on the hill above the Broken Land Parkway exit off U.S. 29, donned prayer shawls and tefillin, or phylacteries, to mark the end of the long day of mourning.

The prayer shawls and tefillin - worn by Jewish males over bar mitzvah age - are usually put on only for morning prayers. "It's a sign of having established a household," said Rabbi Hillel Baron of Ahavas Israel. "But in the morning [of Tisha B'Av], it's considered not appropriate because we are in mourning and we wouldn't show any signs of prosperity."

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The fast of Tisha B'Av, which began at sunset Aug. 6 and ended at nightfall Aug. 7, commemorates the destruction of the holy Temple in Jerusalem, first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and then in 70 A.D. by the Romans.

It is a time when other catastrophic events in Jewish history, such as the Holocaust, are brought to mind. Food and water are forbidden. Congregants sit on low stools or on the floor until mid-day, as a sign of penitence and mourning. Services include readings from Eichah, or The Book of Lamentations.

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Before the early evening service, the men wound the long straps of the tefillin around their arms, tying a small leather box to their upper arms and another on their foreheads.

The boxes contain parchment scrolls inscribed with the Shema - the declaration that affirms faith in the oneness of God and commands that it be diligently taught to children and kept before one's eyes. The second paragraph of the biblical passage deals with obedience to the commandments, and the consequences of good and bad choices, Baron said.

Cantor Abe Golinkin, a visitor at the evening service, sang a portion from the Book of Isaiah, describing the joy and gladness that will reward devotion to God's law and charitable deeds.

"Suffering can be a consequence of poor choices," Baron said later. "[But sometimes the cause of] suffering is unknown. We pray and beseech to God, 'Don't give us such suffering that we don't know why.' "


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