GOOD MORNING! We are about to enter the Three Weeks -- the period of time between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av. (Tamuz 17 begins Wednesday evening, June 30.) It is such an inauspicious period throughout our history that the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, forbids the performance of weddings. It is a period of introspection with thoughts to correcting one's mistakes in life. During this period -- though in different times of history -- both of the Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed.
The Second Temple was destroyed because of Sinat Chinam, unwarranted hatred. People did not treat others with respect or kindness. The Sages tell us that for the Third Temple to be rebuilt there needs to be Ahavat Chinam, unconditional love.
Three years ago I told the story I had heard from Dr. Bernie Siegel relating how a father had prevented the suicide of his son because of a card which read: "You make a difference. The world is a better place because of you." The father had received the card with instructions to pass it on to someone deserving within 24 hours. He chose to give it to his son ... just at the right time! (If you want to read the story, go to http://www.shabbatshalom.org)
If you would like to have five cards to spread unconditional love -- to give recognition and make others feel good, to perhaps change destinies, then send $1, a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Aish Cards, 3414 Prairie Avenue, Miami Beach, Fl. 33140. You can help make this a better world and hasten the building of the Third Temple!
Q & A: WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE 17TH OF TAMUZ AND HOW IS IT OBSERVED?
The 17th of the Hebrew month of Tamuz begins a three week national period of semi-mourning which culminates with the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av). It is a period where many tragedies have historically occurred and is considered in Jewish cosmology such an inauspicious time period that one is, as mentioned above, not allowed to get married. From the 1st of Av (July 14) one is even advised to push off court cases until at least the 10th of Av (July 23). Traditionally, we refrain from hair-cutting, purchasing or wearing new clothing, listening to music and pleasure trips. It is a time for self-reflection and improvement.
On the 17th of Tamuz five calamitous events occurred throughout history:
- Moshe broke the first Tablets of the Ten Commandments when he descended from Mt. Sinai and saw the worshipping of the Golden Calf
- The Daily Sacrificial Offerings ceased in the First Temple due to lack of sheep
- The walls of Jerusalem were breached during the siege of the Second Temple
- Apustumus-the-Wicked burned a Sefer Torah and
- An idol was placed in the Sanctuary of the Second Temple.
The 17th of Tamuz is a fast day. The fast begins approximately an hour before sunrise and continuing until about an hour after sunset. The purpose of the fast is to awaken our hearts to repentance through recalling our forefathers' misdeeds which led to tragedies and our repetition of those mistakes. The fasting is a preparation for repentance -- to break the body's dominance over a person's spiritual side. One should engage in self-examination and undertake to correct mistakes in his relationship with God, his fellow man and with himself.
It is interesting to note that Saddam Hussein is a student of Jewish history. He named the nuclear reactor (from which he planned to create a bomb to drop on Israel) -- you guessed it, Tamuz 17! (Want the source? Ten Minutes Over Baghdad.) For more history, read Book of Our Heritage by Eliyahu Kitov.
Portion of the Week
Pinchas acted zealously in last week's Torah portion to stop a public display of immorality. He thus stemmed the plague of retribution which was killing the multitudes. He is rewarded by being made a Cohen -- by Divine decree.
The Almighty commands Moshe to attack the Midianites in retribution for the licentious plot the Midianites perpetrated upon the Israelites. A new census is taken of the Jewish people revealing that there are 601,730 available for army duty. God directs the division of the Land of Israel amongst the tribes. The Levites are tallied. The daughters of Tzelafchad come forward to petition Moshe regarding their right of inheritance. Moshe inquires of the Almighty Who answers in their favor.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "And the Lord spoke to Moshe saying, 'Pinchas the son of Eliezer, the son of Aharon the priest, has turned away my anger from the Children of Israel in that he was jealous for my sake amongst them, so that I did not consume the Children of Israel in my jealousy.' " (Numbers 25:10,11) Why does the Torah trace Pinchas' heritage to Aharon, his grandfather?
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the former Rosh HaYeshiva (head of the yeshiva) Mir, answers that only someone who is a true lover of the Jewish people, such as Aharon who loved peace and pursued it, can react with such zealousness. Zimri brazenly committed an immoral act with a Midianite in public. In response, Pinchas killed them both. Pinchas' reaction might appear cruel and could have conceivably have been motivated by a tendency towards violence or by a personal hatred. If one is a true Ohaiv Yisroel, a lover of Jews (as was Pinchas), however, we can be sure that he is motivated solely by his great love for the Almighty and the Jewish people.
Rabbi Chaim of Brisk once said about zealousness: "Both the owner of a house and a cat want to destroy mice. The sole difference lies in their attitudes. The owner really wants to be rid of them. The cat, however, wants to have mice to attack. The same applies to protests against misdeeds. One must sincerely not want the misdeeds. One should not just use the misdeed as an opportunity to engage in protesting.