Three Grim Weeks by Rabbi Baruch Cohon


This year it starts on Thursday July 9th and concludes on Thursday July 30th.  On both of those days, observant Jews fast.  And between those days tradition calls for abstinence from celebrations.  Why?  Because those days on history’s calendar saw destruction and misfortune strike the otherwise “Chosen People.”

The first day, 17th in the month of Tammuz, recalls the Biblical story of Moses breaking the Tablets of the Torah when he saw his people at the foot of the mountain worshiping the Golden Calf.  Centuries later, on the same day of the same month Roman invaders broke the walls of Jerusalem, and an invading general burned a Torah scroll and set up an idol to desecrate the Temple. 

Starting on the first day of the month of Av (called in Hebrew M’nakhem Av — “Comforting Father”) mourning practices are increased. No weddings, no listening to music, no laundering clothes, no planting of trees or flowers, etc.  All culminating in the Fast Day of Tish’a b’Av – the 9th day of the month of Av, a full day of mourning on the anniversary of the destruction of both the First Temple in 586 BCE and the Second Temple in 70 CE.  It was on this day of this month that Jews were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition.  On this day of this month all Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were transported to their death at Auschwitz during the Holocaust.  Remembering events like those, today’s Jews have every reason to mourn.  In the synagogue we can hear the sad chant of the Book of Lamentations – Eykha – as the prophet wails: “How does the city stand deserted that once was home to a populous nation?” 

Right there could very well be the clue to what one contemporary commentator called Tish’a b’Av: “a Guide to Jewish Survival.”  With our famous stubborn nature and some Divine help, our people survived the multiple destructions we recall during these 3 Weeks, to achieve both group and individual success in many parts of the world, quite remarkably in the reestablished homeland.

Yes, there are good reasons to mourn our past tragedies during these 3 weeks.  And equally good motivation to learn from them and build future delights.      

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