Wednesday, March 28, 2007

17th of Tammuz, 5765.....

Today is the 17th of Tammuz, marking the beginning of the three weeks until the 9th of Av, otherwise known as Bein Hametzarim. On this day in history, several events occurred, causing this day to be commemorated as a fast day, meant to mourn over the past events, and pray for the future. On this day, the first set of Luchos from Har Sinai were smashed, after the Children of Israel fashioned the Golden Calf. Another thong that happened on this day was that the walls of Jerusalem were finally breached by invading forces after a long and grueling siege. This eventually led to an idol being put up in the Beis Hamikdash, and the subsequent end of burnt offerings. It goes with out saying that obviously, we need to feel the proper amount of remorse.
It is no coincidence that these three weeks of mourning fall out during the summer months. Indeed, right in the middle of the most relaxed time of the year for the world in general, our vacation is seemingly interrupted by this time when no music should be listened to, no one gets haircuts or shaves, and toward the end, during the nine days, we don't even eat meat or bathe ( unless there is a seudas mitzvah, of course...). It's possible that the reason it falls out in such a way is as a lesson, more like a reminder, that despite what pleasures we may be experiencing, we are still, in essence, lacking. We are still in Golus, and no amount of creature comfort should ever allow us to forget that. We are not at home, nor should we think so. To forget is to repeat, and we know what happens when one forgets who he is, or from where he came....
So, during this time, when everyone is on vacation, and everyone's laid back, and the world seems to be as hedonistic as ever, God sends us a little reminder.
I remember when I was forteen, and I was spending the summer in Israel, the camp I went to took us for a tour of the underground sections of the Kotel. Our guide was a grizzled old woman, who seemed to have lived there for so long, her pallor was almost the same shade as the Yerushalmi stone at night. She was no ordinary guide. From the first minute, we could tell that she wasn't interested in kissing a bunch of american kids' asses. She was more interested in relating to us the importance of our heritage, both as individuals, and as a nation. Every time we stopped near the holy stones, she would caress it, and say a short prayer. We were joking around, and as this was during the three weeks, she found this intolerable. She sat us down, and for the next half hour, gave us such mussar, it would make the biggest Rosh Yeshiva blush. One of the things she said was that when she speaks to someone before a fast she never wishes them an easy fast. In fact, she wishes them a bad fast! She went on to explain that the point of a fast is to remind us of what we're missing, and indeed, it should be miserable, in order for us to appreciate what pain and discomfort is, and to inspire us to yearn and pray, every day, to be brought home.
At the time, my friends and I agreed that this was just a loopy old bat who had an opportunity to get on her soapbox, and we laughed it off (albeit, not in front of her, as we didn't want a personal shmooze...). However, as I get older, and I realize what the fasts are all about, I realize that she was in fact right. The fact that I can't forget what she said is a testimony to that, and if I could, I would thank her for it.....
So, although I won't tell you to have a terrible fast, or a miserable one, I can bless you that you should have a meaningful fast, and that we should all realize what's real in this world. And may we merit that this time next year, we shouldn't be fasting, but rather be rejoicing in the Holy City, bemehaira, amen.
Originally posted Monday, 25 July 2005

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