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“The Drei Vochen”

L’Fi Dati: As I See It

A message from Rabbi Weintraub

The “Drei Vochen” – The Three Weeks

The three weeks between Shiva Assar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’av mark a period of sadness and mourning—framed by two fast days– in which we remember some of the greatest tragedies of our history, including the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and the exiles which followed. During this period, festivities and indulgences are avoided or limited. For example, traditionally, we do not schedule weddings and other joyous occasions during the Three Weeks. In fulfillment of the Rabbinic dictum “When Av begins our joy is diminished” (Mishna Ta’anit 4:6), from Rosh Chodesh Av to 9 Av, we take on other restrictions. For example, many avoid eating meat and drinking wine during this period, except on Shabbat.

On the 17th of Tammuz, in the civil year 70 C.E. Roman legions breached the walls of Jerusalem. This led quickly to the total downfall of Jerusalem three weeks later on Tisha B’Av, when the Temple was destroyed and the Second Expulsion began.

On Tisha B’av, the Ninth of Av, the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E and the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. Apart from Yom Kippur, Tisha B’av is the only full Jewish fast day, which means that we fast from sundown to nightfall.

As on Yom Kippur, eating, drinking, bathing, anointing one’s body with cosmetics, wearing leather shoes and sexual intercourse are forbidden. Even the study of Torah, except for sorrowful texts like the Book of Job, are prohibited, since the study of Torah is a joyous activity.

Tisha B’av begins with a sad but beautiful service. We pray the brief Ma’ariv evening services in a hushed tone, and then (if it is physically possible) the worshippers sit on the floor for the chanting of Lamentations and the singing of Kinot (hymns) in an exquisite cantillation special for Tisha B’av. We dim the lights, which reflects our darkened mood.

The next morning, we join together for Shacharit Moring servies, again with Kinot. Tallit and Teffillin are not worn but we add a Torah reading and Haftarah, again with the special Tisha B’av Cantillation.

After Tisha B’av is Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Comfort, which begins a seven week period of consolation, self-examination, re-commitment to the community and spiritual optimism, culminating with Rosh Hashanah.

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