Yael's Holy Land Reflections
Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
A Time to Heal
June 24, 2021
At the height of the summer, most people are having a wonderful time enjoying the warm weather and certainly, after the year of isolation we have all experienced, we all need and deserve time to be outside together, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.
The Three Weeks
But this year, as every year, the Jewish people will also choose an entirely different experience. This coming Sunday night marks the beginning of the most somber time on the Hebrew calendar, known as The Three Weeks.
The date that begins this time, the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, is the date that the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem in the year 70 CE. Three weeks later, on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av (Tisha B’Av) the final day of this sad time, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
Starting on Sunday night Jews around the world will begin a journey through mourning of increasing intensity. For the next several weeks, we will observe basic mourning practices, such as refraining from having weddings, getting haircuts, buying new clothing, or attending live musical performances. Nine days before the 9th of Av, we heighten our state of mourning and observe increased restrictions such as not consuming meat, drinking wine, or wearing freshly laundered clothing. Finally, on the 9th of Av, we are deep in mourning and refrain from activities such as eating, drinking, showering, and other pleasurable activities.
There are parallels between this national time of sadness and the personal experience of mourning of someone dear to us. However, when we mourn a loved one, the goal is to gradually decrease the intensity and help the mourner move on and regain a sense of peace. When we mourn the Temple, we do the opposite. The goal is to increase the intensity of our sadness until we reach the blackest day of the year and feel the full pain of all that we have experienced as a people. Instead of moving forward from darkness to light, we decrease the light and move towards darkness.
Partners in Creation
When Moses went up Mount Sinai, he received the Ten Commandments — ten guiding principles for those who would live godly lives. Right in the middle of this list that instructs us on how we should behave toward God and our neighbours are these words: “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).
Jewish teaching says there are three partners in the creation of a new life: a mother, a father, and God. Because of this partnership, we are to look at our parents not only with love, but with a sense of reverence. They were labourers, with God, in our creation — the co-authors of our life. In honouring our parents, we also honour God.
Yet, this practice is not about dwelling in the past. It is intended to propel us towards a better future.
Especially in the summer months, when we can enjoy the sun, the beach, and tranquility, The Three Weeks reminds us that not all is perfect. We remember that we can never make peace with a broken world. It’s a time to open our eyes wide to all suffering — to remember the oppressed, the hungry, the orphaned, and the widow.
At The Fellowship, this is what we do all year long. However, during these weeks we remember that while we must do what we can to build God’s kingdom on earth, only He can bring true healing. Only God can fix our world completely. The goal of our mourning is to turn towards yearning — longing and praying for God to rebuild His house and dwell among us once again. As we read in Lamentations 5:21, “Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old.”
May it be so.
With blessings from the Holy Land,