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A few facts and thoughts regarding the 17th of Tammuz

אבנים מחורבן הבית בירושלים

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin 

1. Today is the fast of the 17th of Tammuz. The fast begins at dawn and ends when the stars come out (at around 20:10 in Israel). On the 17th of Tammuz, the walls of Jerusalem were breached by Titus and the Roman army. The siege lasted three weeks and, in the end, on the 9th of Av, the Holy Temple was destroyed.

2. Today the period known as "between the straits" or "the three weeks" begins. During this time, mourning customs are observed, culminating on the 9th of Av.

3. Our Sages mention four other tragic events that occurred on this date: Moses descended from Mount Sinai, saw the golden calf, and broke the Tablets of the Covenant; the Tamid sacrifice in the First Temple was halted due to lack of sheep; the wicked Apostomos (during either the First or Second Temple period) burned a Torah scroll; an idol was placed in the Temple sanctuary.

4. What do these events have in common? There was a shattering or a violation of what we thought would last forever, whether it was the Tablets of the Covenant, the walls of Jerusalem, or the daily routine of the sacrificial service in the Holy Temple. Our sages call upon us to strengthen the values that surround and protect us like walls, to never take them for granted, and to do what is necessary so that they will not be breached.

5. This time of year reminds us that despite how far we have come and how much we have achieved during the last generation, complete redemption has not yet arrived. There are still many broken pieces and missing parts of ourselves and of our nation. The instability and war that have shaken the world of late are a painful reminder of how much needs to be fixed and how much we still have to do. This fast is not meant simply to make us suffer as we remember the past, but rather to make us think and learn lessons of how to go forward into the future.


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