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THE THREE WEEKS

R. Steven Bernstein

Zechariah 8: 18 This word of ADONAI-Tzva'ot came to me: 19 "ADONAI-Tzva'ot says, 'The fast days of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months are to become times of joy, gladness and cheer for the house of Y'hudah. Therefore, love truth and peace.'

The 17th day of Tammuz is the fast of the fourth month. This fast commemorates the day that Nebuchadnezzar broke through the city walls of Jerusalem and began the pillaging, sacking, raping, and murdering, of the Jewish people that culminated in the destruction of the Temple on the ninth day of Av, the fast of the fifth month. The 21 days between the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av, are known as the Three Weeks. This is a time of partial mourning that is a preparation for the full fast of the ninth of Av.

The time between these two biblical fast days, is significant. We don’t have weddings. We don’t get our hair cut. We avoid dangerous situations. We don’t listen to music (except on Shabbat.) It is a time for us to remember the many tragic times in Jewish history.

The Jewish calendar is divided into two parts, one joyous, and one introspective. From Sukkot until Shavuot, it is our time to express our joy in Hashem. After Shavuot, and until Yom Kippur, it is our time of introspection. The 17th of Tammuz and the subsequent Three Weeks are the beginning of the segment of the calendar, where we look within ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a people.

This time of introspection is very important to us as a nation and as individuals. It is a time to begin to ask ourselves what can I to be better in the eyes of Hashem. And, what are the historical consequences of not doing this? The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth month lead off this segment of the Jewish calendar with grade horrible reminders of the consequences of not paying attention to Hashem. We study Eicha, Lamentations, the book written by Jeremiah as a passionate lament having witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the house of G-d. From Sinai until the ninth of Av, we had always had the Shechinah of God dwelling among us, either in the tabernacle of the Temple. And then suddenly it was gone.

It was a time of horrific tragedy. Deaths, destruction, starvation, murder, rape, were suddenly and disastrously inflicted on our nation. Lamentations reminds us that compassionate mothers boiled their children for food. Nazirites were no longer recognizable because of starvation and affliction. The sages explain that the reasons Hashem allowed this desolation were idol worship and ignoring the Shmitta.

The difficulty with this explanation is that we had been engaging in idol worship, ever since the golden calf at Sinai. There were many periods of time between Sinai and the first exile that we ignored the Shmitta. The great question is why was the desolation allowed then, at that specific time?

It is a question that only a student of history could comprehend. The reality is that from the time of the golden calf the day of the destruction was coming. It is an indicator of G-d’s grace and mercy that the desolation was kept from happening long before. And indeed, even throughout these tragic events, Hashem’s grace and mercy abounded. A mere 70 years passed before Ezra was allowed to return to the land and begin the reconstruction of the House of God.

And so, in the understanding that Hashem’s grace and mercy are abundant, we nonetheless commemorate these times of tragedy and the suffering of our people. It would be completely discompassionate not to identify and empathize with our people at this time. During Pesach, we are reminded that if Hashem had not brought us out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand, and an outstretched arm, then even we, our children, and our children’s children would still be slaves in Egypt. So too we must remind ourselves that it is us that suffered during the great desolation of the destruction of the first Temple, us, not them. It is the great reminder of the Three Weeks, that allows our compassion and empathy to flow for the nation of Israel, and recognize the grace and mercy of Hashem.Zechariah 8: 18 This word of ADONAI-Tzva'ot came to me: 19 "ADONAI-Tzva'ot says, 'The fast days of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months are to become times of joy, gladness and cheer for the house of Y'hudah. Therefore, love truth and peace.'

The 17th day of Tammuz is the fast of the fourth month. This fast commemorates the day that Nebuchadnezzar broke through the city walls of Jerusalem and began the pillaging, sacking, raping, and murdering, of the Jewish people that culminated in the destruction of the Temple on the ninth day of Av, the fast of the fifth month. The 21 days between the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av, are known as the Three Weeks. This is a time of partial mourning that is a preparation for the full fast of the ninth of Av.

The time between these two biblical fast days, is significant. We don’t have weddings. We don’t get our hair cut. We avoid dangerous situations. We don’t listen to music (except on Shabbat.) It is a time for us to remember the many tragic times in Jewish history.

The Jewish calendar is divided into two parts, one joyous, and one introspective. From Sukkot until Shavuot, it is our time to express our joy in Hashem. After Shavuot, and until Yom Kippur, it is our time of introspection. The 17th of Tammuz and the subsequent Three Weeks are the beginning of the segment of the calendar, where we look within ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a people.

This time of introspection is very important to us as a nation and as individuals. It is a time to begin to ask ourselves what can I to be better in the eyes of Hashem. And, what are the historical consequences of not doing this? The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth month lead off this segment of the Jewish calendar with grade horrible reminders of the consequences of not paying attention to Hashem. We study Eicha, Lamentations, the book written by Jeremiah as a passionate lament having witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the house of G-d. From Sinai until the ninth of Av, we had always had the Shechinah of God dwelling among us, either in the tabernacle of the Temple. And then suddenly it was gone.

It was a time of horrific tragedy. Deaths, destruction, starvation, murder, rape, were suddenly and disastrously inflicted on our nation. Lamentations reminds us that compassionate mothers boiled their children for food. Nazirites were no longer recognizable because of starvation and affliction. The sages explain that the reasons Hashem allowed this desolation were idol worship and ignoring the Shmitta.

The difficulty with this explanation is that we had been engaging in idol worship, ever since the golden calf at Sinai. There were many periods of time between Sinai and the first exile that we ignored the Shmitta. The great question is why was the desolation allowed then, at that specific time?

It is a question that only a student of history could comprehend. The reality is that from the time of the golden calf the day of the destruction was coming. It is an indicator of G-d’s grace and mercy that the desolation was kept from happening long before. And indeed, even throughout these tragic events, Hashem’s grace and mercy abounded. A mere 70 years passed before Ezra was allowed to return to the land and begin the reconstruction of the House of God.

And so, in the understanding that Hashem’s grace and mercy are abundant, we nonetheless commemorate these times of tragedy and the suffering of our people. It would be completely discompassionate not to identify and empathize with our people at this time. During Pesach, we are reminded that if Hashem had not brought us out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand, and an outstretched arm, then even we, our children, and our children’s children would still be slaves in Egypt. So too we must remind ourselves that it is us that suffered during the great desolation of the destruction of the first Temple, us, not them. It is the great reminder of the Three Weeks, that allows our compassion and empathy to flow for the nation of Israel, and recognize the grace and mercy of Hashem.

Wed, July 8 2020 16 Tammuz 5780