In the Hellenistic mindset that has defined most of western thinking for over two thousand years, “Time” is viewed as a linear line moving from point a to point b. the Jewish and Biblical view of the world views specific dates and appointed times are gates through which time flows in a cyclical and upward spiral fashion.
Therefore the Passover season is not only a commemoration of the liberation that once was but it is rather a time that calls forth the spiritual strengths and power of renewed liberation from all the slavery that still confines us. Sukkoth is not only a commemoration of wandering through the desert for forty years and living in booths but is rather a time that is ripe for strengthening our faith and belief in a G-d intimately involved in our lives. And the fast days are times that are appointed for great tests and turbulence. They are times that can easily be filled with sadness and yet they are times that can be used for introspection and growth.
The seventeenth day of Tammuz begins such a three week period that culminates with the tragic 9th day of Av. The 17th day of Av describes the beginning of the siege over Jerusalem which culminated with the destruction of the Temple three weeks later.
As a result, Jews the world over fast and lament to commemorate this and many other calamities that have befallen our people on this ominous day.
- Moses descended Mount Sinai on the 17th day of Tammuz and, upon seeing the Golden Calf broke the first set of Tablets carrying the Ten Commandments
- In the First Temple Era on the 17th day of Tammuz, the priests in the First Temple stopped offering the daily sacrifice on this day (others teach that it occured during the second temple period).
- And the next year on the 17th day of Tammuz the walls of Jerusalem were breached after many months of siege by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces.
- King Menashe, one of the worst of the Jewish kings, had an idol placed in the Holy Sanctuary of the Temple on . 17th day of Tammuz
- In the time of the Roman persecution, Apostomos, captain of the occupation forces publicly burned the Torah on 17th day of Tammuz
- Titus and Rome breaching the walls of Jerusalem in 70 CE on the 17th day of Tammuz
- Pope Gregory IX ordering the confiscation of all manuscripts of the Talmud in 1239 on the 17th of Tammuz
- In 1391, more than 4,000 Jews were killed in Toledo and Jaen, Spain on the 17th day of Tammuz.
- In 1559 the Jewish Quarter of Prague was burned and pillaged on the 17th day of Tammuz.
- The Kovno ghetto was liquidated on the 17th day of Tammuz in 1944
- In 1970 Libya ordered the confiscation of all Jewish property on the 17th day of Tammuz
- Noah sending out the first dove to see if the Flood waters had receded was on the 17th day of Tammuz, only to find out that they had not
One might ask then, are these days “doomed” or “fated” to be filled with calamities? The answer is exactly the opposite. G-d is not predetermining disaster for His people but rather offering opportunities for Tikkun or “fixing”. That is the challenge of “days” that invite challenge.
Then what must be learned out of these days.
That answer may be found in one of the tragedies of this day
G-d spoke to Moshe in the bible and commands the people to perform the daily Tamid sacrifice:
“Command the Children of Israel, and tell them, “My Offering, My Bread-Offering for My Fire-Offerings for a pleasing odor to Me, you must offer in its appointed time ” (Bamidbar 28:1) and continues to describe how the Tamid sacrifice was brought twice daily, once at sunrise and once just before sunset.
Of the tragedies that are mourned on the 17th of Tammuz ,as we have noted, was the cessation of this offering during the time of the First Temple, or, according to others, during the time of the Second Temple.
The Midrash describes a discussion as to which verse in the Bible points to the guiding principle of spiritual Jewish life. One of the answers given is ‘Love your fellow as yourself, and as Rabbi Akiva says, “This is the guiding principle of the Torah” (Sifra Vayikra 19:18). The discussion quotes another opinion: “‘This is the record of the genealogy of Man, when God created him’ (Bereishit 5:1) — this is an even greater principle.” The Maharal’s version of the Midrash presents yet a third opinion: the ultimate guiding principle is the following verse:
“You shall offer the one lamb in the morning and the other in the afternoon” (Shemot 29:39 and Bamidbar 28:4).The Daily Tamid sacrifice
The Talmud in describing this sacrifice declares (Sanhedrin 36a) that the Korban Tamid is defined as “the korban which is exclusive to Me (Hashem)”. Unlike most other sacrifices the Tamid is not identified with any one person or group. It is anonymous; the only being with whom it is identified is God Himself.
That verse and the scarifice truly describes underscores the greatest framework of spiritual life without which that life begins to wither and die..
This framework is made up of the principles of constancy and consistency and unselfish faithfulness.
When that framework is broken the inner strength critical for continuing the eternal journey is deeply wounded. This is what happened on the seventeenth day of Tammuz.
As a result the lesson of this fast day and the Tikkun or fixing of this deficiency involves finding the inner spiritual strength to reinstitute in our lives those very principles. We need to reaffirm the spiritual principles of constancy and consistency and unselfish faithfulness.