On the surface this might seem to contradict the wide spread tradition that Yeshua was born during Chag Sukkot on the 15th of Tishri. However, its my opinion that both dates are correct. There is a lesser known second occasion when Mashiach is said to have been born; it was at his immersion. A voice was heard saying, “You are my son. Today I have begotten you (Lk. 3:22 codex Bezae).”
That this event occurred on Tisha b’Av is clear from the context of the account given in our besorot. In the third chapter of Matthew, at the end of a passionate and rage filled speech just before the immersion of Mashiach, Yochanan Hamatbil responds vehemently to a group of Sadducees sent to interrogate him saying, “Now also the axe is laid at the root of the trees. Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.” This proclamation which was made in reference to the corruption filled second temple is specific in its imagery and helps to place Yeshua’s immersion within the context of Tisha b’Av.
With the words “Now also,” Yochanan is comparing the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash to the first, both of which occurred on the ninth of Av. In Babylon the date of Tisha b’Av was observed as a pagan holiday. Trees were cut into logs to be burned in huge bonfires dedicated to the worship of the sun. When Shlomo Hamelech built the Beit Hamikdash he imported so many cedar trees from the Lebanon, the temple its self was often called “the cedars of Lebanon,” or simply “Lebanon.” In 586 BCE, Babylon chopped down the cedars of the Beit Hamikdash and created an enormous and horrible fire from the temple ruins before driving Judah into exile.
According to our tradition the destructive quality of Tisha b’Av and its relation to exile is a result of our desire to return to Egypt after having been freed from slavery there. Rather than enter into the Promised Land, Yisrael sought to turn back because of fear (Num. 14:34). As punishment for a lack of trust in G-d, Yisrael was cursed with a forty year exile into the wilderness which began on this day. Hashem decreed that Tisha b’Av would be a day of crying and misfortune. “G-d said, ‘”You wept in vain. I will establish this date for you as a time of real weeping for all generations (Ta’anit 29).’”
After his immersion, Mashiach was driven by G-d’s spirit into the wilderness. He remained in the desert for forty days, mimicking Yisrael’s wonderings begun on Tisha b’Av. During these days Mashiach ate nothing and performed corrections for the failings of our nation. As Yisrael erred three times in the wilderness, Mashiach was given three tests. The Satan appeared to Yeshua at the apex of his hunger and said, “If you are the son of G-d, command this stone to turn to bread.” Mashiach remembered the carnality of his people when they spoke against Moshe Rabeinu, saying, “You brought us out into this wilderness to kill us all with hunger (Shemot 16:3).” He refused to eat as an act of tikkun. Answering the Satan, he said, “It is written, man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from G-d’ (Mt. 4:3-4). Mashiach’s response to the tempter comes from Devarim, Parashah Ekev, one of the readings used during the seven weeks between Tisha b’Av and Rosh Hashanah.
After Hashem supplied our need for food in the wilderness we began to complain about water and put G-d to the test. The place where this occurred was named מסה (Massah) and means “test” (Shemot 17:3). Our besorah records that when the Satan attempted to persuade Mashiach to test Hashem he spoke out against the tempter saying, “You shall not put Hashem, your G-d, to the test!”
Before the end of this redemptive journey Mashiach performed one more corrective act on behalf of his people. It is written that “the devil led Yeshua up to a very high mountain, and showed him every kingdom of the world in their magnificence (Matt. 5:8).” The Satan told Mashiach that if he would only prostrate himself before the adversary he would be given “all these.” Again the account is clear in its imagery. It was at the foot of a mountain that Yisrael bowed before a golden calf. In his final act of correction, Mashiach commanded the Satan, “Away, Satan! It is written: ‘Hashem your G-d, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve!’”