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Israel on the 17th of Tammuz: Confronting the Enemy Within
Seventeenth of Tammuz 2017 will begin in the evening of Monday, July 10 and ends in the evening of Tuesday, July 11
We are now entering into a period that has historically been one of sadness for the Jewish people — the Three Weeks. This is the time between the 17th of Tamuz (observed Tuesday, July 11th) and the 9th of Av (starting Monday night, July 31st until Tuesday night). This is a period when many tragedies happened to the Jewish people. Why do we mourn the loss of the Temple after so many years? What did and does it mean to us?
The story is told of Napoleon walking through the streets of Paris one Tisha B’av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, a day of fasting and mourning for the destruction of the two Temples). As his entourage passed a synagogue he heard wailing and crying coming from within; he sent an aide to inquire as to what had happened. The aide returned and told Napoleon that the Jews were in mourning over the loss of their Temple. Napoleon was indignant! “Why wasn’t I informed? When did this happen? Which Temple?” The aide responded, “They lost their Temple in Jerusalem on this date 1700 years ago.” Napoleon stood in silence and then said, “Certainly a people which has mourned the loss of their Temple for so long will survive to see it rebuilt!”
On the 17th of Tamuz, five calamitous events occurred in our history: 1) Moshe broke the first Tablets of the Ten Commandments when he descended from Mt. Sinai and saw the worshipping of the Golden Calf 2) The Daily Sacrificial Offerings ceased in the First Temple due to lack of sheep 3) The walls of Jerusalem were breached during the siege of the Second Temple 4) Apustumus-the-Wicked burned a Sefer Torah and 5) 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.