[See the bottom of this post for explanations of the 17th of Tammuz and the Three Weeks of mourning.]
Today’s fast of the 17th of Tammuz, and the whole start of the Three Weeks of mourning, came with an odd feeling this year.
At minyan last night I looked around and saw all the fresh haircuts and trimmed beards, and couldn’t help but think it looked like Rosh HaShanah, or Pesach.
The feeling was amplified by my own pre-Three Weeks shopping spree. Since the traditional practice of Ashkenazi Jews is that we don’t buy new clothing during the Three Weeks, and since our family is moving, Gd-willing, soon after this mourning period ends, I’ve purchased new shoes, slacks and ties recently. Although I’ve been wearing them for the past several days, a definite newness remains.
Fresh haircut, clean-cut beard, new clothes… yes, it feels much more like Yom Tov than a fast day mourning the destruction of the Beit haMikdash.
But I suppose I could look at it this way: We’re all set for the arrival of mashiach!
The fast day of the 17th of Tammuz, observed Thursday July 9 this year, commemorates five tragedies:
1. Moses descended from meeting Gd and receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, saw the Jews celebrating with the Golden Calf, and broke the two tablets Gd had given him.
2. The daily Tamid offering, which had been brought regularly in the Jerusalem Beit haMikdash [Temple] from the time the Jews built the Mishkan for over one thousand years, was halted during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem before the Beit haMikdash was destroyed.
3. The Romans invaded Jerusalem, prior to destroying the second Beit haMikdash. (The Babylonians invaded Jerusalem to destroy the first Temple on the 9th of Tammuz.)
4. A Greek or Roman official named Apostimos held a public burning of the Torah.
5. Idols were set up in the Temple itself; it is not clear what year this happened.
The 17th of Tammuz begins a three-week Jewish national period of mourning for the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem, as well as numerous other nation-wide tragedies, such as the Chmielnitzki massacres, the Crusades, and the Holocaust. This period culminates with the fast of Tisha b'Av, the ninth of Av.