The Nine Days and the Three Weeks
By Nachum Mohl
The period between the seventeenth of Tamuz and the ninth of Av (Tisha B’av) is a period of sadness and remembrance of tragedies that happened to the Jewish nation. It was during this period that our greatest national tragedy occurred, the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile from our lands.
The Seventeenth of Tamuz
Five calamities occurred on the Seventeenth day of Tamuz:
- The original Ten Commandment Tablets were broken,
- The Daily Sacrifices in the Holy Temple were stopped,
- The walls of Jerusalem were breached,
- Torah scrolls were burnt by Apustmus,
- An idol was placed in the Holy Temple.
The original Ten Commandants were broken in the year 2448, that was 3,319 years ago (this is year 5767)! The Jews who had come out from Egypt had made themselves a Golden Calf and engaged in idol worship. Moses, coming down from Mount Sinai saw the molten image and broke the original Tablets. A history of shame came on to this day throughout history, and the terrible sin of the Golden Calf lingers with us still.
Later in history, in the year 3336, the Babylonian armies began siege of Jerusalem that eventually led to the destruction of the Holy Temple and the loss of our land and freedom.
The Romans, too, laid siege to a rebuilt Jerusalem. This siege caused a terrible famine in the city, and on the Seventeenth of Tamuz, there could be found no lambs to be brought for the daily sacrifices. When this happened, the Jews felt the terrible crush of the oppressor.
It was on this date, that the Romans breeched the walls of the city of Jerusalem and captured it. Destruction and exile rapidly followed the defeat and all was lost.
On this date, Apustmus, an officer of the occupation, publicly burnt the Torah scrolls and placed an idol in the Temple. These actions plunged a knife into the spiritual heart of our people.
Five calamities befell our people on Tisha B’av:
- It was on this day that that Moses sent the spies to tour the Land of Israel. They returned with a report that caused every one to loose faith in G-d,
- Nebuzaradan, the chief of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies destroyed the first holy Temple,
- The Romans under Titus destroyed the second Temple,
- The Romans broke the revolt of Bar Kochba and the entire city of Beitar was captured and it residents were murdered,
- Our enemy brought a plow onto the Temple Mount and plowed under all remains of the Temple, signaling defeat and totally crushing our people.
Thanks only to the mercy of G-d, the Jews have survived an exile of some two thousand years, moving from nation to nation, from pogrom to holocaust, until the present, when, by the grace of G-d, we have been returned to our land and await only the arrival of the righteous Messiah and the rebuilding of the holy Temple.
That we should never forget our ancient heritage, and that we realize the terrible affects our personal and national behavior has our national existence, we observe the following observances:
The Seventeenth of Tamuz is a fast day, boys over thirteen and girls over twelve who feel healthy and well should participate in the fast that extends from sunrise to nightfall.
From the Seventeenth of Tamuz to the Ninth of Av is a period of mourning for Jews. The custom is to refrain fro listening to music and weddings are not performed during this time as it is a time of bad omen. Haircutting is also not done during these three weeks.
When the first day of Av comes, the mourning observance increases. The custom is not to drink any wine or eat meat during the weekdays unless it is for a Mitzvah. However, on the Shabbat, it is permissible as no mourning observance is done on the Shabbat.
During this period, laundry is not washed or even given to be washed.
On the afternoon of the eighth of Av until the conclusion of Tisha B’av, the Torah is not studied since it brings joy to one who learns it. The exception is that portions dealing with the destruction of the Temple or similar tragic events may be studied.
The fast begins at sunset on the eighth of Av and concludes after nightfall on the following day.
On Tisha B’av, washing of the face is not permitted. If the hands or the face become soiled, they may be washed. It is only washing for pleasure that is not done, but to take away dirt is permitted.
On Tisha B’av, wearing of leather footwear is not permitted. Footwear made of rubber, canvass, plastic, or any other material may be worn.
We do not sit on chairs during the morning of Tisha B’av, but rather on low stools, as is the custom of mourners.
Greetings are not exchanged on Tisha B’av. If someone that does not know this greets you, you may respond in a feeble manner.
In the prayer service, the Book of Lamentations is read at night, and in the morning special dirges (called kinot) are recited. The Talit (prayer shawl) and Tefillin are not worn in the morning, but during the afternoon service, they are put on.
We beseech G-d in Heaven to have mercy on His people, and that he return us to our former land, that we may once again go up to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and there bring our offerings.
from the July 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine