The Three Weeks 5776

Holiday #13 (208)

The Three Weeks 5776

July 24-August 14

From the Masters of Kabala From Ascent QuarterlyFrom the Chassidic RebbesSome Laws and Customs

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From Ascent Quarterly

Five calamitous events occurred on the Seventeenth of Tammuz.

  • The first Tablets-of-the-Law were broken, when Moshe descended from the mountain and saw the golden calf and the accompanying dancing.
  • The daily sacrificial offering ceased in the first Temple (since the cohanim no longer found available sheep for the offering).
  • At the time of the destruction of the second Temple, the walls of Yerushalayim were breached.
  • Apustumus-the wicked, burned the Torah.
  • An idol was placed in the Sanctuary.

At the time of the destruction of the first Temple, the walls of Yerushalayim were also breached in Tammuz (on the ninth of the month). In order, however, not to burden the community excessively, the Rabbis did not designate both days as fast days, because of their proximity. They rather designated the commemoration of both events for the seventeenth of Tammuz, since the destruction of the second Temple is to us a greater calamity than that of the first Temple.

From the Chassidic Rebbes

Among the five events which occurred on the seventeenth of Tammuz is the destruction of the city of Yerushalayim. It is a day when gentiles (and, figuratively, a gentile lifestyle) broke through the wall that surrounded and defended Jerusalem.

This concept has a parallel in our lives. The Hebrew name of the city, Yerushalayim, is a composite of two Hebrew words, yirah, and shaleim, which combined mean “complete fear.” This is a level of fear that includes within it the totality of our service to G-d; affecting every aspect of our behavior.

Complete fear, as all other aspects of Torah and mitzvos, must be surrounded by a wall, as our sages said (Avos 1:2), “make a fence around the Torah.” In our personal lives this wall represents the practice of meditation, the acceptance of G-d’s yoke and the quality of self-annulment. When the wall around Yerushalayim is destroyed it is necessary to institute a fast. Through “losing fat and blood” we can correct the fault of lacking a wall, The fast is a mitzvah; by fulfilling the mitzvah we reestablish our connection with G-d and make ourselves one with Him.

There is another lesson to learn from the destruction of the wall around Yerushalayim. A wall is intended to separate those inside the city from all the influence that exist on the outside. Hence, the wall of Yerushalayim separated those who have complete fear from those who lack this quality. There are gates and passageways in the wall so that no two Jews will be completely separated from each other.

The above is true in normal times. However, in times such as these, the concept of “the city was destroyed,” and the wall of Yerushalayim being broken down, has a positive connotation as well. That connotation is that we must involve ourselves with other Jews, even those outside the wall around complete fear, over and beyond the call of duty—using the “doors and passage-ways.” We must show self-sacrifice, not considering any obstacles, and even put our own lives in danger in order to reach out to a Jew who lives outside Yerushalayim, and even one who lives outside the holiness of Israel in general.

(Based on Sichos in English vol. 6)

From the Masters of Kabbalah

"I shall turn their mourning into joy" (Psalms 104:31).

When Mashiach comes and the Holy Temple is rebuilt, there will be no more mourning on Tisha b'Av. But why should this day be designated a joyful festival?

On Tisha b'Av, the Holy Temple was destroyed on account of Israel's evil deeds, which aroused Divine anger. Nevertheless, though the external and visible aspect of this anger was outright punishment, its inner aspect-its ultimate motivation-was G-d's intense love of His people. It was precisely this love that caused Him such extreme distress when His children became soiled by sin (for if there were no such love, their conduct would be of no consequence to Him).

Once judgment will have been done and the Divine fury will have run its course, what will remain will be the underlying, innermost Divine attribute-G-d's love for His people. And, as this love surfaces, in the future Tisha b'Av will become a festival.
In the Scroll of Eicha ("Lamentations"), written by the prophet Jeramiah after the First Destruction and read publicly on Tisha b'Av night, we find the verse (3:15), "He has sated me with bitter food." It is taught that Tisha b'Av and Pesach (when we partake of the bitter maror) share a common theme (indeed, since the calendar was standardized more than 1500 years ago, the first day of Pesach always falls on the same day of the week as Tisha b'Av). The above insight affords us a deeper common denominator between the two dates: on Pesach, the external aspect of G-d's love for His people was revealed; on Tisha b'Av, the innermost aspect of this love will be revealed.

[Based on From Exile to Redemption II, pp. 94-95]

> Some Laws and Customs

The fast of the 17th (postponed from Shabbat till Sun. 18th) of Tammuz (July 24) 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.

The twenty 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 (postponed from Shabbat till Sun. 10th) of the month of Av, is the 24+ hour fast commemorating when the two Temples were both destroyed. Starting after the Shabbat of August 13, to display our mourning we do not eat, drink, wear leather shoes, act intimately, bathe for pleasure, or anoint.  Until noontime on Sunday, 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 Sunday 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 Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and holidays we do not recite Tachanun.

May this transformation be an immediate reality!

The ASCENT staff



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