|Three Weeks of mourning – understanding the significance|
The three weeks between 17 Tammuz and Tisha B’Av have historically been days of misfortune and calamity for the Jewish nation and a period of mourning is observed.
Seventeenth of Tammuz
• Moses broke the tablets at Mount Sinai — in response to the sin of the Golden Calf.
Ninth of Av
During the three week period, various aspects of mourning are observed by the entire nation. We minimize joy and celebration– no weddings are held, we do not listen to music, nor are there haircuts or shaving. The expressions of mourning take on greater intensity as we approach the day of Tisha B’Av.
Sundown marks the commencement of Tisha B’Av, where no eating or drinking is permitted until nightfall the following evening. It is also forbidden to bathe or wash, wear leather shoes, or engage in marital relations.
We also refrain from Torah study except for texts relevant to Tisha B’Av and mourning such as the Book of Eicha (Lamentations) and Job, and certain sections of the Talmud. In the Book of Eicha we read Jeremiah’s poetic lament over the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple. It is read in the synagogue as part of the evening service.
Special Kinot (elegies) are also recited, both at night and during the day. We also minimize business and leisure activities. Through the process of teshuva – self-introspection and a commitment to improve – we have the power to transform tragedy into joy. In fact, the Talmud says that after the future redemption of Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple, these days will be re-dedicated as days of rejoicing and festivity.
(Issue July / August 2012)