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Days of Mourning: The Three Weeks

by Rabbi Eliezer Gurkow


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A Kind Suffering

The Hebrew word Chesed, kindness, has a numeric value of seventy-two. Kabbalah teaches that the last seventy-two days of the Hebrew calendar year are permeated with Chesed, divine benevolence. This period begins on the seventeenth day of the Hebrew month, Tammuz.

This day is also the first of a three-week (plus one day) period during which we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile of the Jewish nation from Israel in the year 69 CE. Fasting and severe mourning mark the first and last days of this period as we respectively commemorate the anniversaries of the breach of Jerusalem’s walls and the fall of the Holy Temple.

This begs a question. How can a period of such suffering be simultaneously permeated with divine benevolence?

Hidden Good

The Hebrew word Tov, which means “good,” has a numeric value of seventeen . The Bnei Yissachar teaches that this “good” is tied into seventeen days of this three-week period. What sort of goodness is connected with these seventeen days? A hidden one. The Talmud teaches that upon creation of the world G-d withheld a large measure of “goodness” and kept it in store, to be revealed when the Moshiach comes

Kabbalah teaches that the last seventy-two days of the Hebrew calendar year are permeated with Chesed, divine benevolence
These seventeen days may appear negative on the surface but are in fact fully permeated with divine goodness. Just below the surface lies an intense measure of “goodness,” yet to be revealed.

The Talmud teaches that all punishment and suffering are veils drawn by G-d over kindness that is too powerful to be directly perceived. Yet the Psalmist promised that when Moshiach comes this veil will be removed and we will come to understand the positive import of our nation’s suffering. At that time we will recognize the true character of divine benevolence that characterizes these seventeen days

What of the Additional five days of this Period?

These five days are in fact not sad at all. They are comprised of three days of Shabbat and one day of Rosh Chodesh, all which fall during this period. The fifth day is the ninth of Av, which was declared a festival by the prophet Jeremiah because the potential for Moshiach was born on this day.

May we merit the immediate unveiling of this goodness and may these days of mourning soon be transformed into days of celebration and joy.


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(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
Rosh Chodesh
The "Head of the Month," Rosh Chodesh is observed the first day of every Jewish month. If the previous month had 30 days, then the last day of the previous month is also observed; hence a two-day Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is a semi-holiday, marked by Torah-reading and special prayers.
The fifth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to July-August. The saddest month of the year due to the destruction of the Temples, and the many other tragedies which befell the Jews in this month.
The fourth month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to June-July.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
1. Jewish prophet who lived in the 5th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Jeremiah. The book is replete with prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.