The Three Weeks

The Three Weeks

Three weeks have been earmarked yearly in the Jewish calendar for mourning. These 21 days begin on the fast of the 17th of Tamuz and culminate on the fast of the 9th of Av. During this time, the Jewish nation mourns for the destruction of both Temples and the ensuing exiles.

Jews the world over refrain from specific activities during this time, some of which includes not shaving or taking haircuts, not listening to music and not conducting weddings. More than mere prohibitions, they are demonstrations. For three weeks, the Jewish nation demonstrates its sorrow and pain for all that it has endured collectively throughout the ages.

The prophet states (Isaiah 66:10) ‘Be glad for Jerusalem and rejoice with her, all you who love her; exult with her in exultation, all you who mourn for her.’ The Talmud notes (Taanis 30b) ‘From here they said: All who mourn for Jerusalem will merit to witness her joy, while anyone who does not mourn for Jerusalem will not witness her joy.’ Thus, we are charged with an obligation and offered a great opportunity. if we utilize this time to mourn for all that we once possessed, we are assured to one day be spectators in its glorious restoration.

These 21 days are divided into Three different Levels of mourning
 

If I Forget Thee, O, Jerusalem!

The concept of mourning for the Temple as observed by the Jewish nation transcends what is commonly viewed as acts of mourning. In the main, mourning indicates profound sadness for something that has occurred. When one cries over a loss they exhibit pain, a sense of hopelessness and sometimes despair. Jewish mourning for the Temple, however, while certainly based on past events, is future oriented. The Jewish nation mourns, cries and yearns for what the future holds more than it weeps for what was. While this may seem queer, it holds within it a great truth.

In the writings of the ancients, it states that Hashem decreed that the dead should be forgotten by the living. Had we lived in a world where people never forgot, we wouldn’t be able to function. Sorrows would forever remain fresh in our minds, hampering any attempt at moving on. As such, Hashem decreed that while the pain for the loss of a loved one would be great, it would recede. With time, the memory would fade.

Yet, our nation never forgot the loss of Jerusalem. We mourn the loss as if it was a recent occurrence. When the mourners by the rivers of Babylon cried “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill,” they spoke for all successive generations. Why can we not simply move on, like one who mourns the loss of a dear relative?

The answer is, writes the Chassidic Masters, that the decree of forgetfulness extends only to the dead. Jerusalem lives. Like a lost child alive somewhere, one cannot find closure. We too search. Our mourning is future oriented. We cry for what we once had, but we yearn for the future. We search for what we are missing, not for what is no more.

 

SHIVA ASAR B’TAMUZ
The 17th Day Tamuz

The Zohar states that the months of Tamuz and Av are times of grave danger for the Jewish nation. These months are times when evil has an opportunity to reign in the world. Harmful forces gain the upper hand and can roam the world and cause damage.

The 17th day of Tamuz is one of several communal fast days set forth by the sages. This was the day when Noach sent the dove out of the ark for the first time and the poor bird found no place to rest. We are told that the Jewish nation is compared to a dove. Symbolically, the bird lacking rest is echoed in our nation’s current state of affairs. From Shiva Asar B’Tamuz through Tisha B’Av, throughout the generations, we find our nation facing all kinds of tragedies time and again. These three weeks are called “Bayn Hamitzarim”, the space between two rocks, a place where one can get harmed and trapped.

Another event that occurred on the 17th day of Tamuz was when Moshe broke the Luchos. He had ascended to Heaven after the giving of the Torah to study and fully absorb all the details to the laws of the Torah. Moshe was to remain in heaven for forty days and nights and then descend with the written Tablets in hand. At that time, bad elements among our nation gained the upper hand and began worshipping a Golden Calf that they had fashioned with their own hands. As Moshe descended from the mountain, he saw a nation that had so recently reached the highest spiritual heights now depraved. Now they worshiped a golden creature. At that time, Moshe hurled the Luchos – the miraculous sapphire tablets inscribed with the “writing” of G-d – shattering them at the side of the mountain.

More troubles were to befall our nation. It was on this day that the sacrifices stopped being brought on the altar, shortly before the destruction of the First Temple. Up until the 17th of Tamuz, the Kohanim who were holed up in the Temple still had animals for Karbanos. However, on the 17th day of Tamuz, the altar went cold. There were no more animals available for the holy service.

Yet again, during the time leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple, tragedy befell our people. Once again, our enemies laid siege to the Holy City of Jerusalem. And finally, on the 17th day of Tamuz, Titus and his Roman hordes breached the city walls and overran the city.

Reasons for fasting on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz
Five tragedies befell our people on the Seventeenth of Tammuz, as recorded in Tractate Taanis. It was due to these events that our sages instituted the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz. They were, 1) Moshe smashed the first set of Tablets when he descended from Mount Sinai after observing some of the people serving a golden calf. 2) During the siege of the First Temple, the enemies halted the daily offering of the Korban Tamid. This offering was discontinued until the rebuilding of the Second Temple. 3) Three weeks before the destruction of the Second Temple the walls of Jerusalem were breached. 4) A Greek general named Apostumos publicly burned a Torah scroll. 5) A graven image was placed inside the Temple.

Various activities were restricted during these Three Weeks as a form of mourning:

  • We do not marry.
  • We do not listen to music.
  • We do not cut our hair.
  • We do not wear new clothes.
  • We do not conduct weddings.
  • We do not go on vacation.
CHODESH AV
The first Nine Days of the month
Tishah B’av
The Day of Mourning

Yearning For the Beis Hamikdesh

The Talmud states that Hashem, so to speak, cries privately over the destruction of the Temple. Maharal writes that the secret hideaway where G-d cries is situated within the soul of every Jew. For the soul emanates from the Creator and is hidden deep inside man.

A Jew’s soul cries incessantly over the Destruction of the Temple. It weeps without letup for all that has been lost. But why is it not detected? The Chassidic master, Reb Bunim of P’shis’cha offered a parable. Once there was a king that amassed fantastic treasures which he hid in a secret hideaway deep under his palace. One day a great fire broke out in the capital. It spread quickly, burning down the palace, as well as the hideaway that contained the treasures. A great wave of mourning swept over the nation and they cried for all that had lost. But the king cried most bitterly of all. Only he knew about the fantastic treasures that had been destroyed.

Like the countrymen, we cry for the Beis Hamikdash. Our souls, however, cry most of all. Deep in the recesses of our soul, beyond what ordinary men can detect, we exhibit a clearer recognition. And while it may not be easily detectable, on Tisha B’av that cry rises and expresses itself in a way that is tangible even for ordinary human beings.

The Temple unified the Jewish nation. Like the heart of man, it pumped the vitality of the people that coursed through their veins, offering a connection to spirituality far beyond our ability to imagine. While we will forever endure, we exist in a crippled state. Today, Jerusalem is a sprawling city, home to tens of thousands of Jews, Torah institutions, and prayer. But it’s most vital organ is missing.

Yet, although we cry for what we once had, we weep mostly for the future. The following story illustrates why.

The great Rama, Rabbi Moshe Isserles, writes that the Greek philosopher Plato accompanied Nebuchadnezzar when he came to destroy the First Temple. After the destruction, Plato found the prophet Jeremiah weeping bitterly near the Temple ruins. Plato asked Jeremiah two questions. First, how could such an eminent man cry so bitterly over sticks and stone and besides, the Temple already burned down? What benefit is there to tears?

At this point, Jeremiah asked Plato about some of his most vexing philosophical questions. The great philosopher listed off some thorny problems, which Jeremiah answered with ease. Shocked, Plato exclaimed, “I cannot imagine that a mere mortal can be so wise!”

Jeremiah then said that all his knowledge emanated from those “sticks and stones”, which explained why Jeremiah was crying so bitterly. However, Jeremiah said that he could not answer why tears are beneficial after the fact. Plato would not understand.

Some suggest that Jeremiah wouldn’t answer why he still cried because Plato could never understand. Our tears aren’t just for the past; we cry for the future. While the heavenly gates were sealed off since the destruction, the gate of tears remains. Every tear ascends heavenward and is collected and contributes toward the reconstruction of the final and everlasting Temple. This is a belief that rational Plato could never comprehend, as it defied logic. As such, Jeremiah left the question unanswered.

Children’s Video
What can we do to Rebuild the Beis Hamikdash ?

The Three Weeks in Belz

  • Reciting Eichah

     After sunset, on the eve of Tisha B’Av, thousands of Jews gather in the Big Shul to mourn the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. It is customary to dim the lights and sit on the floor during to the Eichah reading.

    1. Three Weeks in Belz
  • Mourning the Destruction

     After sunset, on the eve of Tisha B’Av, thousands of Jews gather in the Big Shul to mourn the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. It is customary to dim the lights and sit on the floor during the Eichah reading.

    2. Three Weeks in Belz
  • Praying for the Redemption

    At Shachris on Tisha B’Av morning we daven without wearing a Tallis or Tefilin. The special Tisha B’Av Kinos are recited until midday.

    3. Three Weeks in Belz
  • Rays of Hope

    Tisha Bav afternoon our spirits begin to lift as a new light of hope and redemption begins to shine.

    4. Three Weeks in Belz
  • Awaiting the Geulah

    When Tisha B’Av concludes, the Rebbe leads a L’chaim with heartfelt singing. Songs of hope and redemption uplift the hearts and souls of many who yearn for the new spark of Redemption that will hopefully arrive speedily in our days.

    5. Three Weeks in Belz
  • Awaiting the Geulah

    When Tisha B’Av concludes, the Rebbe leads a L’chaim with heartfelt singing. Songs of hope and redemption uplift the hearts and souls of many who yearn for the new spark of Redemption that will hopefully arrive speedily in our days.

    6. Three Weeks in Belz
  • Words of Hope

    At the Lechaim, the Rebbe speaks about the Geula, inspiring those present with hope and joy.

    7. Three Weeks in Belz
  • By The Kosel

    Later that same night, the Yeshiva students gather at the Kosel to sing songs of hope and inspiration.

    8. Three Weeks in Belz
  • By The Kosel

    Later that same night, the Yeshiva students gather at the Kosel to sing songs of hope and inspiration.

    9. Three Weeks in Belz

One Day We Will Sing Forever

We mourn the past with complete faith in Hashem that one day He will restore what we once had. Then our happiness will be complete. With that in mind, a story from the previous Belzer Rebbe, Rav Aharon Rockeach comes to mind:

Nothing quite compares to a Rebbe’s tisch. Hundreds of Chassidim bedecked in fur shtreimels and elegant bekeshas sway to-and-fro, singing, clapping and stamping in unison. The Rebbe sits at the head table. He conducts the music. He speaks Torah. He guides his followers in matters of faith.

That is how it was in Europe prior to the war. And that is how it had been for as long as anyone could remember. But now it was different. It was right after the Holocaust. Like always, people thronged around the Rebbe, like any other Friday night. But the mood was somber. Faces were defeated, hollow, and dead. It was as if their souls had left them but their bodies were still there. Now stood men who had made it back from hell. They had lost everything they once had. Fathers, mothers, wives, siblings, children, communities, possessions. Gone. Now they weren’t dressed in Chassidic gear. They wore caps and jackets. They looked at their Rebbe and he looked back at them. What was there to say?

Then Rav Aharon spoke. He said “Moshe Rabbeinu sang Az Yashir at the splitting of the sea. But the word Yashir is future tense. The implication is that they would sing, but weren’t they singing right now?” The Rebbe answered, “Moshe was alluding to something else. Something greater. Moshe said thus. Now we sing, but there will be a greater song still. At the time of Techiyas Hameisim, they will sing a very great song that will never end.”

“Imagine the nation at the Sea of Suf. Eighty percent of the people had died in the Plague of Darkness. They never made it out. These were the people’s fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, and relatives. They didn’t have the will to sing. But Moshe instilled in them trust, optimism, and faith. He said, even if you don’t have the will to sing right now, you will sing then! One day Moshiach will arrive and your loved ones will all come back to life. A very great song of happiness awaits.”

Now the men at the tisch began to cry. Tears streamed down their faces. They buried their faces in their hands and they sobbed. They cried for what once was. But they wept also for the future. The message was clear. One day they would be reunited with their loved ones and there will be a very great song. That song would never end.