When I was first learning all about how to fast on these minor fast days, it seemed like I would remember all the halachos and details forever. I mean, it’s halacha, right? So since it’s important I should remember everything always, or so I thought at the time.
Well, as the years go by, I see that I do need refreshers as each event arises. That’s what today’s Torah Tuesdays is about. To brush up, I like to look in Sha’arei Halacha (Rabbi Ze’ev Greenwald) and The Book of our Heritage (Eliyahu Kitov). They are both chock full of info, and are the sources I used for today’s post.
Today is Shiva Asar b’Tammuz (the 17th of Tammuz), which starts the period known as the Three Weeks. It’s a sad time of year for us. We also call this time of year yemei bein ha-metzarim (“days in straits”), which is taken from a verse in Lamentations (1:3) which describes the destruction of our holy Temple.
A few reasons:
- The tablets of the Ten Commandments were broken (because of the worship of the Golden Calf)
- The tamid-sacrifice stopped being offered (before the destruction of the first Temple)
- the walls around Jerusalem were breached by the enemy (before the destruction of the second Temple)
- a Torah scroll was set on fire by Apustamus the wicked
- an idol was erected in the Temple
If those seem a little abstract or hard to relate to, Ruti Mizrachi has an excellent post today which may help.
What do we do?
Today, we fast. No food or drink (this doesn’t apply to children, women who are pregnant/nursing, people who aren’t well, the elderly, etc.). The fast starts at dawn and ends at night, when the stars can be seen. There are also specific prayers inserted into today’s prayer service.
Even if you’re not fasting, you can still take the opportunity to use the fast day as a time to take a spiritual accounting. Fast days are about introspection, self-improvement, and returning to Hashem. Remembering the sad events that happened today (and, indeed, the sad events of the recent weeks) can be a motivation to strengthen our relationship with Hashem, and assess how we are doing, spiritual-growth-wise.
Have a meaningful fast (or a meaningful day), and may we merit to see the redemption soon!
- Fast of 17th of Tammuz Commemorates a Number of Woes (israelnationalnews.com)
- The Three Weeks in a Nutshell (crazyjewishconvert.blogspot.com)