Regarding the 17th of Tammuz

Think about how far the world has come, but look around you and think how far it has yet to go.

Sivan Rahav-Meir ,

Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meir
Eyal ben Ayish

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

1.Today, the 17th of Tammuz, is one of the fast days that were established to commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temples.

The fast is not meant to cause suffering, but to make us think and learn lessons from both past and present events.

On the 17th of Tammuz, the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans. Three weeks later, on Tisha B'Av, the Second Temple was destroyed. Today the period known as "between the straits" or "the three weeks" begins and mourning customs are observed during this time.

2. Our sages mention four other catastrophes that occurred on this date:

-Moses descended from Mount Sinai, saw the golden calf, and broke the Tablets of the Covenant

-The Tamid sacrifice in the First Temple was halted due to lack of sheep;

-Apostomos (during either the First or Second Temple period) burned a Torah scroll

-An idol was placed in the Temple sanctuary.

3. What do these five events have in common? There was a shattering or a violation of what we thought would last forever, whether it was the Tablets of the Covenant, the walls of Jerusalem, or the daily routine in the Holy Temple. Our sages call upon us to strengthen our values that surround and protect us like walls and never take them for granted.

4. This time of year reminds us that despite how much we have advanced and achieved during the last generation, we have not yet reached complete redemption. There are pieces from our personal and national lives that are shattered and missing. The disasters and convulsions that the world underwent this past year (as of this writing, they are still searching for those missing in Florida) serve as additional painful reminders that we still have work to do.

5. What are we supposed to do amidst all this chaos? When a residential building collapses in Miami with many of our brethren inside and we are praying for them; when the coronavirus may be returning, heaven forbid; when the government is unstable and there is constant political turmoil and internal division; when the period "between the straits" (between the 17th or Tammuz and Tisha B'Av) which begins with the fast on Sunday brings with it, in any case, a sense of sadness and loss.

6. In the Haftarah we just read on Shabbat, the prophet Micah assigns us a lifetime mission. He reminds us that it does not matter what is happening around us, how many trials and challenges we face, or what state the world is in. There is always something that can be done. The prophet turns to each of us individually, in the singular tense, and asks: You want to know what is good? What is required from you? "Only to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) A short sentence that gives direction to our lives: do justice, love kindness, and act with humility.

May we hear only good news.

For more on the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz, click here.