The minor fast of the 17th of Tammuz begins the period of mourning that lasts through Tisha B’Av, the major fast day that commemorates, among other things, the destruction of both the First and the Second Temples. During this three-week period, some people abstain from listening to music, getting married, and cutting their hair. The pain and mourning of these days has the power to raise us beyond the spiritual shortcomings and character flaws that originally brought about Jerusalem’s destruction. The prophets promise that these sad days will turn into days of happiness. Our sages explain that the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av will become national holidays, and that the three weeks in the middle will become intermediary days. Through repentance, introspection and resolving to improve, we gain the ability to take the sadness and turn it into happiness.
The purpose of a fast is to make a personal accounting of one’s deeds. A fast is supposed to arouse a person’s heart to contemplate the bad things that befell our nation on that day. Every person should try to feel the pain of the fast day. One should think about how he or she can learn more and do more mitzvoth and good deeds to speed up the redemption’s coming. The Talmud tells us: “Whoever shares in the pain of the community will share in its solace.” It also says: “Anyone who mourns for Jerusalem will merit to see it rebuilt.”
We approach this period of year each time with a heavy heart, hoping that in these three weeks that are usually hard times for the people of Israel, all will pass quietly and peacefully. And yet it seems like nothing is different from last year. True, we fast and remember the Temple, but it all seems like it’s just on the surface. Do we truly believe, hope and pray that maybe this year we won’t have to fast and that the Temple will be rebuilt once again? We must live the redemption and believe that everything that happens every day is bringing us closer to the full redemption. Not only in thoughts and in our beliefs must we be attentive, but also in the actual things that are happening in Israel and in the world itself.
Sometimes we might wish for some big miracle to happen – perhaps in one second, the holy Temple will be rebuilt, and we’ll all dance in the streets. That is a wonderful thought that many doubtless dream of. I surely do. The 10 plagues in Egypt, the splitting of the sea and the 10 commandments brought down to us by Moshe Rabbeinu are only a few of the long list of miracles in our past. However, in the last 2000 years, we are living in times where the miracles are woven into the natural course of the world. They are still great and amazing miracles. However, one has to have a listening and open mind and heart to see the hand of G-d in each and every miracle in order to not dismiss the events that take place around us as fate or chance.
As Jews, we try to connect all of our daily events to the guiding hands of The Almighty. And yet, how often do we look at G-d’s connection to the world and His intervention in the public realm? We must see how G-d not only takes care of us on the personal level but is there in the global level as well. Whether it’s a president that was picked or events that might be happening around the world, we must see Hashem in it all.
We are living in a time when the nation of Israel is strong, the people are strong, and the land of Israel is strong like never before. Sure, we all want Mashiach to pop up and save us all and have the holy Temple fall from the sky. But we must look at the times and generation that we are living through presently to see how G-d is turning the whole world to the direction of the redemption in a natural course of events. We are all living in a part of the redemption. When in Jewish history did we have such a beautiful country where we could live as Jews like we do today?
I’m not denying that we still have many internal fights amongst the various groups in the land. With time, those too will be resolved. What I’m discussing here is about a bigger picture. G-d takes care of each one of us on a personal level, however, Hashem is still running the entire world and Am Israel is always G-d’s first and formost priority. Hashem picks leaders according to whom and what will be good for the Jews, not only on an individual level, but also mainly according to what will bring us all the full redemption in a natural course of events.
Thus, the 17th of Tammuz this year is completely different from last year, since we are a year ahead into the full redemption. Major events have taken place in the world since last year’s 17th of Tammuz, which puts us in a very exciting place. G-d is moving all the pieces and people in the world in order to be able to bring true salvation for the entire nation and for the entire world at once. And all that can only happen when the Jewish nation will rise and rule the world with the Torah as its guide of rules. This is happening more and more all the time. May we soon merit that the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court of law, become the judicial system in Israel as a light onto all the nations of the world. That will bring the holy Temple to be rebuilt soon in our times, amen.
May it be G-d’s will that we witness the words of the prophet Zachariah: “So says G-d the Lord of Hosts, the fast of the 4th month (17th of Tammuz), the fast of the 5th month (9th of Av), the fast of the 7th month (the fast of Gedaliah) and the fast of the 10th month (the 10th of Tevet) shall all become for the house of Judah happiness, gladness and good holidays.”