From Ascent Quarterly
Out of the Ashes
"The Three Weeks," between the fast day of the 17th of Tamuz
and the fast day of 9 Av, mark a period of mourning for the two Holy Temples
which were destroyed during this time period. No weddings, haircuts, or
purchases of new clothes are among the restrictions in force at this time.
It is a Chasidic custom to, in addition to the mourning practices, study
during these weeks the laws of the building and maintaining of the Temple,
the Third Temple that will replace the two fallen ones in the time of
Moshiach, may it be very soon. It helps us to understand better what we
are lacking, and gives us focus for the rectification to come.
The mourning and the restrictions intensify when the month of Menachem
Av arrives. Eating meat, bathing for pleasure and wearing fresh laundered
clothes also become forbidden (customs may vary according to community
and locale). "When Av arrives, we decrease in joy," states the
well-known Talmudic dictum.
However, Chasidim interpret with an interesting emphasis: "When
Av arrives, we decrease - [how?] in joy!" So since consumption of
meat and wine is permitted at an obligatory festive meal celebrating the
fulfillment of a mitzvah, such as a Bris Mila (circumcision), or a "Siyum"
for the completion of a complete Talmudic tractate, the Lubavitcher Rebbe
initiated the custom of conducting or participating in a Siyum on as many
of the Nine Days as possible (even if one does not avail oneself of the
dispensation to eat meat), in order to relieve the sadness of these days,
and to change mourning to joy.
The two most famous Kabbalists of Safed, Rabbi Moshe Cordevero ("Ramak")
and Rabbi Yitzchak Luria ("Ari") passed away during this period.
The yahrzeit rites for the Ramak on the 23 of Tamuz and the Ari on 5 Av
are yet another opportunity for "converting darkness to light."
In conclusionj: it is both important and necessary to participate in
fast days and the restrictions, and to mourn for the Temples during these
three weeks. But for Kabbalists, Chasidim and the mystically inclined,
it is also desirable to look for and accentuate the positive elements
in this time span. Please consider joining us in the suggestions above.
From the Chassidic Rebbes
Clouds of Shame and Redemption
In Book of Eichah read on Tisha B'Av, one can see how judgment is transformed
into redemption. For example, the verse, "G-d, in his anger, shamed
fair Zion" sounds like it is referring to harsh punishment. The word
for "shame", yaiv, brings to mind a thick cloud of negative
energy. Clouds are also associated with the word "av",
since thick clouds of rain are called "avim". Thick clouds
also represent kelipah, concealment of G-dliness.
However, clouds also have positive associations, just as the curses in
Vayikra and Devarim have the potential to become blessings. Moshe Rabbeinu
could not enter the Sanctuary because a cloud settled on top of it. On
the day the Torah was given, there was so much smoke and so many clouds
that the Jewish People could not approach the mountain further. In one
verse, the flight of angels is compared to thick clouds in the sky. "Mi
eleh" ("Who are they") is said in connection with the angels.
"Mi" or who expresses the aspect of concealment, "eleh"
or these, expresses revelation. The connection between the two opposite
concepts comes from a higher level than both of them, but the basic idea
is that the clouds function as a concealment which will eventually be
lifted in the time of revelation.
There is also a connection between the words "yaiv" and "eika"
which expresses the potential for redemption through progressive teshuvah.
"Eika" is spelled with the Hebrew letters "aleph"
and "yud", and "caf" and hei. The yud of Eika
corresponds to the number ten, standing for the ten commandments. On this
level, the ten commandments are engraved inside out, since the external
aspect of the ten commandments are revealed in the physical world, and
the internal aspect is revealed in the higher worlds. The yud is also
associated with the ten sefirot the way they are rooted in the Infinite
Light, Blessed be He. The aleph is above the 10 sefirot and is
part of the essence of G-d. Caf expresses the quality of kingship.
How are all of these elements represented by the letters connected? The
aleph-yud combination and the cof-hei are connected through
yaiv, the thick cloud, and av. Even though yaiv and av are associated
with descent and kelipah, the concealment has a significant role to play.
Zion had to descend in order to clothe itself in the kelipah as a first
step toward teshuvah. It is only through this process that the lower elements
can be refined. Av, for instance, represents a sin done intentionally.
When the av is elevated through teshuvah, the sins are transformed into
merits. Teshuvah also balances the gevurah in the verse, "G-d, in
his anger, shamed fair (yaiv) Zion," because the teshuva sweetens
the aspect of strict justice and assuages anger.
From the Masters of Kabbalah
Why is Megillat Eicha (Lamentations) - the scroll which is read
on Tisha B'Av to commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple - not
written on a separate piece of parchment just like Megillat Esther (the
Book of Esther) -- the scroll which is read on Purim?
When Moshiach comes, Tisha B'Av will be transformed from a day of sorrow
into a day of rejoicing. As every single day we await Moshiach's arrival,
making Lamentations more "permanent" by committing it to parchment
is not really necessary and would imply that we had already despaired,
G-d forbid. Purim, however, will also be celebrated in the Era of Redemption,
and thus the parchment scrolls will also be used then.
On the eve of Tisha B'Av each year Reb Avraham of Chechanov
would have to buy a new copy of Kinos--Lamentations. For every year, as
soon as the mournful service was over, he would stow away his copy in
the place where old and battered sacred books were lodged until they were
buried. And each time he did this he would say: "I am sure that Moshiach
will come this year, and then we won't have any further need for books
(A Treasury of Chasidic Tales)
Some Laws and Customs
The fast of the 17th of Tammuz (July 15) starts before dawn and
ends after dark. No eating or drinking. Special services at shul morning
and afternoon. The money saved by not eating should go to charity; the
time, to Torah-study and mitzvot-performance.
one days between the seventeenth of Tamuz and the ninth of Av are
called Bein Hametzarim—“The-Days-Between-The-Fences” (see Lamentations
1:3). On these days many afflictions and calamities befell Israel through
the generations. The first and second Temples were both destroyed this
period. Rejoicing has to be diminished. Marriages are not held till after
Tisha b’Av. We refrain from music and dancing and from pleasure-trips,
as well as from hair-cutting. It is likewise customary to refrain from
wearing a new garment or eating a fruit for the first time after a year,
because these would require the recital of the blessing of joy, shehecheyanu.
Tisha b'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av
(sunset, Aug. 4 - nightfall, Aug. 5), is the 24+ hour fast commemorating
when the two Temples were both destroyed. To display our mourning we do
not wear leather shoes, act intimately, bathe for pleasure, or anoint.
On Sunday, until noontime, we sit on low chairs or pillows, do not put
on tefillin or tallit gadol, refrain from learning Torah
and certain parts of prayer which cause or show joy. Also we should refrain
from pleasant greetings. On Saturday night we read Eicha (Lamentations)
which describes the first Temple’s destruction, and on Thursday it is
customary to read special sad Kinot—prayers concentrating on the
destruction. Interestingly, we do not recite Tachanun—a daily prayer
associated with atoning for sins. This is because, with the arrival of
the redemption, the 9th of Av will be transformed into a tremendous holiday,
and on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and holidays we do not recite Tachanun.
May this transformation
be an immediate reality!
last year's Three Weeks' page
for more Kabbalah insights on
The Three Weeks