No Fasting This 17th of Tammuz & Tisha B’Av

Riding the wave of recent holydays has been a rush. In dizzying succession there’s being fueled by Pesach to relive the exodus from Egypt, gaining freedom from self-limitations, the journey of self-improvement through “Sefiras HaOmer”, breaking the barrier between Heaven and Earth with the Revelation at Sinai, receiving the Torah joyously anew and the humbling privilege of being chosen as Hashem’s nation by the advent of Shavous. Like an adrenaline junkie – I mentally scanned the Jewish calendar for the next signpost that will provide my next “fix”:

The “3 Weeks”.

I was jarred by the shock of being unexpectedly splashed by a stream of mental cold water. My euphoric balloon burst and I felt like I had slammed full force into a brick wall. Darkness. Silence.

The “3 Weeks”.

Images of no music, the sense of foreboding as I plan where & when to travel, rushing to get clothes washed and pre-worn, no showers, the acrid taste of an egg dipped in ashes, hunger pangs from fasting, isolation, shifting in constant discomfort on a hard, overturned bench; breaking my teeth on the unfamiliar and seemingly endless recital of Kinos, looking wearily for the clock to strike “chatzos” (afternoon) and the worst – not being able to greet or smile at the person in front of me as we silently lock eyes – all surged to the forefront of my mind:

The “3 weeks”.

Don’t get me wrong, one of the advantages of the “3 Weeks”, culminating with Tisha B’Av, is to be shaken out of complacency. We could travel through the Jewish year from one Rosh HaShannah to the eve of the following Rosh HaShannah, proverbaily pat ourselves on the back after weighing the preceding years observance of Jewish life – finding ourselves majority on the side merit while beseeching for mercy for the minority of our shortcomings. We could then proceed into the New Year and every year on the same cycle. Tisha B’Av is a disruptor, the litmus test, a reality check – did we really do what we needed to do? If we do not have the Temple, if we are not gathered from exile and have the ability to observe the entirety of the 613 mitzvos – then the answer is and the mirror of honesty we look into reflects a resounding “NO”; we’ve utterly failed despite good and accomplished efforts. Its not about evaluating how well did we live Jewishly but bottom line – did we end our exile? This bitter “failure” creates a fuel for a passionate return to Hashem during the days of Elul, slichos and the 10 Days of Teshuvah.

Despite that “perk” – the images come fast and strong – creating a visceral cringe. Even the Torah readings leading up to the “3 Weeks” seem to re-enforce this foreboding and serve as a preparation for these somber days of historic tragedy:

· Shelach – The sin of the spies & the source of our historic tragedies.
· Korach – the rebellion against Moses.
· Chukas – the death of Miriam & Aaron.
· Balak – the sin of idol worship.

Yet, it needs to be asked – does it really have to be this way? Do we have to resign ourselves to fasting this year as in previous years?

The Rambam (“Maimonides”) writes in his compilation and rulings of Jewish law that “a person should always view the world as evenly balanced – the next mitzvah to be done can tip the scales to bring the world to merit & bring the Redemption.”

Clearly, from a legal perspective – the answer is a resounding: “NO” – we will not have to fast this year if we choose to do something about it.

Do we have to wait for the “litmus test” and the 10 Days of Teshuvah? Is there a way to make a “pre-emptive strike”? What does the Torah empower us to do NOW? What are some of the catalysts based on our Sages recommendations?

· Return to Hashem with a feral intensity in increased learning, prayer, charity and mitzvos observed to the highest standards possible.
· Make a “siyum” during the “9 days” by completing the learning of a Tractate of Talmud.
· Observe Shabbos with accuracy & stringency.
· Learn the Rambam’s laws concerning the Building of the Temple (“Beis HaBechirah”).
· Learn the Prophets concerning the rebuilding of the Temple.
· Actively seek to create unity and peace.
· Perform self-less acts of kindness.

So the choice is really ours to “tip the scales” and there’s an opportunity that stands before us. True, while this choice is offered year round, the “3 weeks” are in actuality an auspicious time. Just as in the month of Nissan our Sages state “In the month of Nissan the Jews were redeemed, so to in the future will they be redeemed.” – similarly the Sages state:

(Yalkut Shimoni, Yermiyahu, 259 ): “The lion [Nevudchanetzar, who is referred to in the Bible as a lion–Yermiyahu 4:7] came on the month of the lion [Av] and destroyed the lion [the Temple, which is referred to in the Bible, especially with regard to the alter, as a lion], in order that the lion [G-d, of Whom is said ‘the lion roars, who shall not fear’–Amos 3:8] come on the month of the lion and rebuild the lion.”

The Rambam also brings the verdict “the days of fasting will be transformed to days of joy”.

So, if you have similar images of Tisha B’Av – let us be rebellious, fight history and use the empowerment of Torah and its mitzvos to bring the complete and true Redemption – NOW!.

One comment on “No Fasting This 17th of Tammuz & Tisha B’Av

  1. Make a “siyum” during the “9 days” by completing the learning of a Tractate of Talmud.

    Does anybody know where this “custom” came from?

Comments are closed.