SUNDAY, JULY 8: Hope in the face of despair sweeps through Jewish communities today, as devotees observe the Seventeenth of Tammuz. Although the fast day is referred to by date on which it falls, the fast has deep meaning: Jews remember five significant events that tradition places on this date.
• The breaking of the two tablets of stone by Moses on Mount Sinai
• The cessation of the daily tamid offerings at the First Temple
• The breaching of Jerusalem’s walls, which led to the destruction of the Second Temple
• The first burning of a Torah scroll, by Roman general Apostamos, prior to Bar Kokhba’s Revolt
• The placement of an idol in the Sanctuary at the Holy Temple
Observant Jews believe that God awaits their repentance by fasting from dawn until dusk today. (Learn more from Aish.com or Chabad.org.) Grieving over these solemn events in Jewish history allows the faithful to overcome their spiritual shortfalls, and eventually to turn past tragedy into future joy. Beginning today, Jews will mourn for three weeks—until Tisha B’Av.
How does a modern Jew mourn over a Temple he or she has never seen? Sages point to fasting as a time to become aware of the sense of loss. It’s also explained that for every generation that doesn’t see the rebuilding of the Temple, it’s as though the Temple was destroyed for that generation, too.
Still, there is hope! Fast days provide an opportunity to repent for past sins. In fact, the prophet Zechariah said that the Seventeenth of Tammuz will someday be a day of “joy to the House of Judah, and gladness and cheerful feasts.” (Wikipedia has details.) A day of mourning may soon, many believe, be transformed into day of great joy.