Tuesday, July 15th marks the beginning of the period known to Orthodox Jews everywhere as “the Three Weeks.” In the Hebrew calendar that date is the 17th of Tammuz, which commemorates the day the Romans broke through the walls of Jerusalem, finally ending its long siege.
The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans, in 69 CE. Three weeks later, after the Jews put up a valiant struggle, the Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple on the 9th of Av. The 17th of Tammuz marks the beginning of the end of the Second Temple era, with the Romans conquering Jerusalem in three very bloody weeks and destroying the Temple. Nearly seven centuries earlier, the Babylonians had breached the walls of Jerusalem on their way to destroying the first Temple.
Four other tragic events in history occurred on the 17th of Tammuz:
- Moses broke the tablets when he saw the Jewish people worshiping the Golden Calf.
- During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, the Jews were forced to cease offering the daily sacrifices due to the lack of sheep.
- Apostomos burned the holy Torah.
- An idol was placed in the Holy Temple.
As an Orthodox Jew, together with many of the Touro College faculty, staff, and students, I will be fasting this Tuesday. A fast day is an opportunity for reflection and self-examination, not only a sad day in history.
The Touro College Libraries have a number of titles on this topic, including the books, In the narrow places: daily inspiration for the Three Weeks, by Erica Brown, and A summary of Halachos of the Three Weeks, by Rabbi Shimon D. Eider.
The fast of the 17th of Tammuz begins at 3:54 AM on Tuesday, July 15th, and ends at 8:58 PM.
Contributed by Toby Krausz, Judaica Librarian, Midtown Library