Bein Adam Lchavero

Bein Adam Lchavairo is a blog dealing with interpersonal relations within the Jewish community and the interactions of the Jewish and Gentile worlds. We're new. Be gentle.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Three Weeks are Coming �So What?

Tomorrow is Shiva Asur B'Tamuz, the fast day that begins the Three Weeks. For the uninitiated, the Three Weeks are a period of morning beginning on the seventeenth day of the month of Tamuz and ending on the ninth day of the month of Av, Tiva B'Av.

What are the Three Weeks though, really? Why is it that during this period Observant Jews do not get haircuts, make weddings and other celebratory events? Why don't we listen to music? Many do not eat meat or drink wine for the entire three weeks; almost all refrain for the final nine days.

The simple, basic answer, the obvious one, is that on Shiva Asur B'Tamuz the walls of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) were breached, an event that would culminate in the destruction of the First Beit Hamigdash (Temple) on Tiva B'Av (that was in 586 BCE, by the Babylonians. It's also the same day that the second was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, for those of you at home keeping score). Due to this, we mourn.

And yet� there�s something else I once heard (I'm trying to remember from who) that resonated with me greatly.

What is Tiva B�Av, anyway? The greatest day of mourning. Not only is it the day that both Batay Migdash were destroyed, it is the day on which we commemorate all the other horrors our people have suffered. It's an intense day.

Or it should be.

Tell me, in this day and age, centuries from the existence of the Beit Hamigdash, living in the Diaspora, how do you make that connection? How do you really get Tiva B'Av? I mean, most of us live in free countries. We�re pretty well off. The Babylonians are gone, as are the Greeks and Romans and most of the people who oppressed us throughout the centuries. Heck, Spain even formally apologized for the Expulsion! What are we mourning, exactly? Some �pile of rocks� in some nation somewhere that many of us will never even step foot in?

To understand Tiva B'Av, we first must understand what mourning is.

When someone loses a loved one, they�re deeply affected. The Torah understands that and gives us a process to work through it.

We begin with Aninut. From the time of death until the burial, the mourner is exempt from all positive mitzvoth (commandments). This time is to be focused on achieving closure with the departed.

Aninut and the burial are followed by the se'udat havra'ah, a small intimate meal, family only. It is to remind the mourner that the family is still there for him.

Then there is Shiva, the seven days of mourning. During Shiva the mourner is limited in his behaviors. Without going into the litany of restrictions, one that catches one�s attention for our purposes is the fact that the mourner cannot initiate conversations. Rather, visitors who come must first initiate it. He has to be drawn out of his mourning, in a sense, slowly. Reminded that the community he is part of cares for him.

We then go to Shloshim, a 30 day period from the day of Burial. During that time the mourner goes about his daily life with a few �minor� restrictions. They do not attend parties or celebrations, do not shave or cut their hair, and do not listen to music

Wait� that seems remarkably familiar, doesn't it?

You see, the Three Weeks are a reversal of the Shiva process. The Three Weeks are the Shloshim period, which we follow with a more intense mourning period analogous slightly analogous to Shiva (though the halachot � laws � of Shiva are only kept on Tisha B�Av itself, the nine days fit that niche in our analogy. Bear with me). Then we have Tisha B�av itself, a day of intense morning not unlike Aninut. A day to sit and weep for what we have lost.

The Three Weeks exist to bring us to the proper stage of morning for Tisha B�av, to help us circumvent the disconnect that may exist. I think that if we go into the Three Weeks with this mindset, we will have a Tisha B�av wherin we are all truly mourning the loss of the Beit Hamigdash.

May we all be zocheh to see the coming of the Third Beit Hamigdash in our days, and mourn no longer.