The 3 weeks: Shiv’a-Assar (17th) B’Tammuz & Tish’a (9th) B’Av

Posted on July 30, 2008. Filed under: Jewish traditions | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Here’s some information about these 3 weeks between Shiv’a-Assar B’Tammuz (17th of Tammuz) and Tish’a B’Av (9th of Av):

The Three Weeks: July 20-August 10, 2008
A full three weeks of our year-the three weeks “between the strictures” of Tammuz 17 and Av 9-are designated as a time of mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple and the resultant Galus-physical exile and spiritual displacement-in which we still find ourselves. Click here for the Laws and Customs of the Three Weeks

17th of Tammuz: July 20, 2008
The Fast of the 17th of Tammuz, Shiva Assar B’Tammuz, the day when Moses broke the tablets as he saw the Jewish people worshipping the golden calf “coincidentally” proved to be the same day when the Romans broke through the walls of Jerusalem to begin their destruction of the Second Temple in the year 69 CE.

The Nine Days: August 2-10, 2008
“When the month of Av begins, we reduce our joy…” (Talmud, Ta’anit 26)
Beginning on the 1st of Av, we customarily refrain from a number of activities which are associated with joy. See: The Laws and Customs of the Nine Days.

Tisha B’Av: August 9-10, 2008

The 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av, commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it’s clearly a day specially cursed by G-d. The First Temple was destroyed on this day. Five centuries later, as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was destroyed the same day as the first.

When the Jews rebelled against roman rule, they believed that their leader. Simon bar Kochba, would fulfill their messianic longings. But their hopes were cruelly dashed in 135 CE as the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in the final battle at Betar. The date of the massacre? Of course-the 9th of Av!

The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE on, you guessed it, Tisha B’Av. In 1492, the Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land. The edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in-order and leave the country. The Hebrew date on which no Jew was allowed any longer to remain in the land where he had enjoyed welcome and prosperity? Oh, by now, you know it–the 9th of Av.

Ready for just one more? World War II and the Holocaust, historians conclude, was actually the long drawn-out conclusion of World War I that began in 1914. And yes, amazingly enough, the First World War also began, on the Hebrew calendar, on the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av.

What do you make of all this? Jews see this as another confirmation of the deeply held conviction that history isn’t haphazard; events-even terrible ones-are part of a Divine plan and have spiritual meaning. The message of time is that a rational purpose, even though we don’t understand it.

Don’t forget to read The Laws and Customs of Tisha B’Av.

Shabbat Nachamu, August 16, 2008

The Shabbat following the Ninth of Av is the Shabbat of joy over our anticipated consolation. It is called Shabbat Nachamu, for the prophetic portion that is read is taken from Chapter 40 of Isaiah which begins with the words “Nachamu, Nachamu Ami” – “Console, console my people, says your G-d.” Click here for more on Shabbat Nachamu.

The Fifteenth of Av: August 16, 2008

The 15th of Av is undoubtedly the most mysterious day of the Jewish calendar. A search of the Shulchan-Aruch (“Code of Jewish Law”) reveals no observances or customs for this date, except for the instruction that beginning on the 15th of Av, one should increase one’s study of Torah, since at this time of the year the nights begin to grow longer and “the night was created for study.” And the Talmud tells us that many years ago the “daughters of Jerusalem would go dance in the vineyards” on the 15th of Av, and “whoever did not have a wife would go there” to find himself a bride.

And this is the day which the Talmud considers the greatest festival of the year, with Yom Kippur (!) a close second!

Furthermore information:

The Three Weeks

The twenty-one day period between the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of Av is referred to as Bein Ha-Metzarim – “within the straits,” based on the verse (Eichah 1:3) which states: All of her pursuers overtook her within the straits. The Sages (Eichah Rabbah 1) explained that within the straits refers to the days of affliction which occurred in the period between the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of Av. In this period, many calamities befell the Jewish people throughout the generations. It was during this period of within the straits that both the first and second Temples were destroyed. This period was therefore established as a time of mourning for the destruction of the Sanctuaries.

During this period, we lessen the extent of our rejoicing. Marriages are not held, we refrain from listening to music, dancing, taking pleasure trips, and from taking haircuts or shaving. According to the Sephardic custom, which is based on the opinion of Beit Yosef, haircuts are permitted until the week in which Tisha B’Av actually falls.

It is customary not to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing during this period. Thus, we do not wear new clothing or eat fruit which we had not yet eaten that season so that we will not be required to recite Shehecheyanu. However, when faced with an opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah which will pass – e.g., a circumcision or a Pidyon Haben – then the blessing is made. Similarly, if a new fruit is available during this three-week period and might not be available afterwards, Shehecheyanu is recited. Since it is customary to permit the recital of the blessing on Shabbat, it is preferable to save the new fruit until Shabbat. A pregnant woman who has a craving for a new fruit, however, or a sick person who needs it for his health, may recite Shehecheyanu during the three weeks.

It is customary to be even more careful than one usually is in avoiding dangerous situations. Pious people set aside a period of time for reflection and mourning over the destruction of both Temples. In some communities it is customary to recite the Tikkun-Chatzot even at noon.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe also urged that the Three Weeks should be a time of increased giving of charity and Torah study (in keeping with the verse (Isaiah 1:27), “Zion shall be redeemed by law, and her returnees by charity”), particularly the study of those portions of Torah that deal with the laws and the deeper significance of the Holy Temple.

The Nine Days

When the month of Av begins, we further limit our rejoicing to the point where we even avoid anything that can lead us to rejoice. Thus, we do not plant trees meant for beauty or shade. Similarly, we do not undertake any construction or home improvement projects for the sake of luxury, such as redecorating or painting our homes. However, if one has no place to live, he may build a home in this period.

It is prohibited to purchase, sew, weave, or knit new clothing -even if one intends to wear the clothing only after the Ninth of Av. One may not purchase even a used garment if it is because of its beauty. The prohibition of purchasing a new garment is more stringent than wearing a new garment which had been purchased previously.

It should be noted, however, that these restrictions refer only to situations where no mitzvah is involved. For the purpose of fulfilling a commandment – e.g., purchasing new clothing for a bride and groom or building a home for them – these things are permitted. If there is reason to fear that the price of clothing will rise after The Ninth of Av, one may purchase whatever clothes he wishes but should not wear them until after The Ninth of Av.

Beginning from Rosh Chodesh Av, one may not wash clothing even if the clothing will not be worn until after The Ninth of Av. If one has only one set of clothes, however, they may be washed after Rosh Chodesh, until the week during which The Ninth of Av falls.

A person who perspires profusely and needs to change his shirt daily should prepare a number of shirts and wear each of them briefly before Rosh Chodesh. He may then wear them during the week in which The Ninth of Av falls.

In addition to the prohibition of getting their own hair cut, adults are also proscribed from cutting their children’s hair, beginning from the seventeenth of Tammuz, and from washing their children’s clothing beginning from Rosh Chodesh Av. The clothing of infants, however, may be laundered – even during the week in which The Ninth of Av falls. lf possible, one should not launder large quantities and one should not do so publicly.

It is prohibited to wear new shoes from Rosh Chodesh. However, shoes purchased specifically for The Ninth of Av – e.g., shoes made from canvas or rubber – may be worn even if they are new.

One may make a wedding engagement during this period but no celebration with a festive meal should be held.

From Rosh Chodesh until after The Ninth of Av, it is prohibited to eat meat or drink wine, for during this period the sacrifices and libations in the Beis Hamikdash ceased. Through custom this prohibition has been expanded to include food cooked with meat. However, one may eat food that was prepared in a meat pot. The Sephardic custom is to keep these stringencies only in the week in which The Ninth of Av falls. At a festive meal served at a circumcision, Pidyon ha-ben, bar mitzvah, or at the conclusion of the study of a Talmudic tractate, etc. – one may eat meat and drink wine.

Starting from Rosh Chodesh, it is customary for the ritual slaughterers to put their knives away. Meat is slaughtered during this period only for the ill, for Shabbat, or for use at a festive meal.

It is customary not to use wine for the Havdalah service, but rather to use beer. The Chabad custom is to recite the Havdalah on wine and have a child who is old enough to understand the importance of the blessing, drink the wine.

Starting from Rosh Chodesh Av [according to Sephardic custom beginning with the week in which The Ninth of Av falls] one may not bathe the entire body – even in cold water. We do not bathe in a pool, a river, or the ocean. However, if Rosh Chodesh Av falls on a Friday, one may bathe in warm water in honor of Shabbat.

The above prohibition refers specifically to bathing for pleasure. One who must bathe for health purposes – e.g., a person whom the doctors ordered to bathe – or a laborer who performs work that makes him dirty, may do so during this period.

On the Friday before Shabbat Chazon – the Shabbat immediately before The Ninth of Av – it is prohibited to wash one’s entire body even in cold water. One may wash his face, hands, and feet in cold water. One who customarily washes himself before Shabbat with warm water may use warm water also on this Friday, but only to wash his face, hands, and feet.

One who customarily immerses himself in a Mikveh on Friday may do so on the Friday of Shabbat Chazon as well. However, one who only occasionally immerses himself on Fridays should not do so on this Friday.

Shabbat Nachamu

The Shabbat following the Ninth of Av is the Shabbat of joy over our anticipated consolation. It is called Shabbat Nachamu, for the prophetic portion that is read is taken from Chapter 40 of Isaiah which begins with the words Nachamu, Nachamu Ami – “Console, console my people, says your G-d.”

Usually, the Haftarah reading on Shabbat pertains to a theme in the respective Torah portion which is read. However, when a given Shabbat has a different character – e.g., on a Festival or Rosh Chodesh – the Haftarah reading reflects the specific theme of the day instead.

Thus, on the three Sabbaths between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and The Ninth of Av, the Haftarot reflect the sense of calamity that characterizes the period. The first two are drawn from Jeremiah, while the third is from Isaiah.

The Haftarah of Shabbat Nachamu is the first of the “seven consolations” – the seven Haftarot which are read on the seven Sabbaths following The Ninth of Av. These Haftarot are taken from Isaiah and record the prophetic messages of consolation which Isaiah offered Israel.

There are 144 verses altogether in the seven Haftarot of consolation, and 143 verses contained in the portions of admonition in the Torah recorded in Bechukotai, Ki-Tavo, Nitzavim, and Ha’azinu – and we see that the consolation exceeds the admonition.

A Double Consolation
“Console, console my people” – the word Nachamu – “console” – is repeated, and thus it is said: Let those above console her and those below console her; let the living console her and let the dead console her; console her in this world and console her in the World to Come; console her for the ten tribes and console her for the tribes of Binyamin and Yehudah. The verse (Lamentations 1:2) uses the Hebrew root meaning “to weep,” in two forms, for emphasis (Bacho Tivkeh) – thus we should weep twice: over the destruction of the first Temple and over the destruction of the second. For all these reasons, the consolation – Nachamu, Nachamu – is mentioned twice.


*** We WANT Moshiach, Now!!! ***

By the way, You, too, can help hasten the coming of Moshiach by doing ONE more Mitzvah.

*** We WANT Moshiach, Now!!! ***


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