Photo Credit: Jewish Press

This week began the Three Weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. The first day of the three weeks is Shiva Adar b’Tammuz, a fast day.

The Rebbe asks a question: Shiva Asar is the number 17, which is the numerical value of the word “tov – good.” When we mention 17, tov comes to mind. The question then is: Shiva Asar B’Tammuz is a fast day for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. What is good about it?


If Almighty G-d wanted to choose a date for the Three Weeks of mourning to begin, why is that date on the 17th which is connected to the idea of good?

The story is told that a gentile once asked a Jew, “Why do you Jews answer one question with another?” The Jew looked at him, smiled. And said: “And why not?”

So here too we will answer one question with another: What happened here? Almighty G-d destroyed the Beis HaMikdash; there was an untold number of individuals who perished during that time, as the Gemara describes in Gittin. The question is: We know that G-d is the G-d of mercy and goodness, as we read in Eicha – Lamentations 3:38, “Mipi Elyon lo seitzei hara’os – By the command of the Most High, evil does not come.” If so, how are we supposed to understand the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash?

The general explanation is:

Almighty G-d does not do anything that is bad. Whatever He does is only a preparation for something even better. That is the explanation for the Jews’ servitude in Mitzrayim, why innocent men, women, and children were tortured as we know the story. This was a preparation for something higher – Matan Torah. It is a yerida letzorech aliya, a “descent for the purpose of ascent.”

Almighty G-d does not orchestrate a descent, chas v’sholom, just for the sake of descent. Sometimes, however, we cannot get to stage two unless we first go through stage one as a preparation.

The exile in Egypt was stage one for the purpose of getting to stage two, which was Matan Torah. Similarly, with regard to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the period of mourning – it is all in preparation for the geula haamitis v’hashleima, the true and complete Redemption.

This is in concert with what the Rambam writes (Hilchos Taaniyos 5:19) that when Moshiach comes, not only will these days not be days of sadness, but they will be annulled and transformed to days of joy and happiness.

The Rambam cites the posuk from Zechariya (8:19) where the Navi says, “So said the G-d of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month (referring to Shiva Asar b’Tammuz, in the fourth month from Nisan), the fast of the fifth month (Tisha b’Av) the fast of the seventh month (Tzom Gedalia), and the fast of the tenth month (Asara b’Teves), shall be for the house of Judah for joy and happiness.” These fast days will be transformed to joy, happiness and days of festivity.

The navi is telling us that these days have the potential to be “days of joy and happiness.” To prove that, Almighty G-d orchestrated that the mourning period should begin on Shiva Asar, signifying the concept of tov – good.

For the moment the good is not revealed and so we fast, but we should know that these days will be days of joy and festivity. The navi does not say that all days are going to be days of happiness but that these four days of fasting, which we see as negative, will be good – with the good of building the third Beis HaMikdash, speedily in our very own days.


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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. He can be reached at [email protected].