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Tuesday, July 25, 2017 2 Av 5777





HOLIDAY
HIGHLIGHTS

B"H

 

Three Weeks

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the Summer, we have an annual mourning period called The Three Weeks. This is when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and our launch into a still-ongoing exile.
 
The period begins on the 17 of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, a fast day that marks the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 CE.
 
 
 
 
We reach its climax and concludes with the fast of the 9th of Av, the date when both Holy Temples were set aflame. This is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, and it is also the date that many other tragedies befell our people.
 

Our sages tell us that those who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit seeing it rebuilt with the coming of Moshiach. May that day come very soon, and then all the mournful dates on the calendar will be transformed into days of tremendous joy and happiness.

 

* * *

 
Tisha B'Av
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The 9th of Av, Tisha b'Av, commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it's clearly a day set aside by G‑d for suffering.
 
The year is 1313 BCE. The Israelites are in the desert, recently having experienced the miraculous Exodus, and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. But first they dispatch a reconnaissance mission to assist in formulating a prudent battle strategy. The spies return on the eighth day of the Hebrew month of Av and report that the land is unconquerable. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cry. They insist that they'd rather go back to Egypt.
 
G‑d is highly displeased by this public demonstration of distrust in His power, and consequently that generation of Israelites never enters the Holy Land. Only their children have that privilege, after wandering in the desert for another 38 years.
 
The First Temple was destroyed on the 9th of Av (423 BCE). Five centuries later (in 69 CE), as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was destroyed the same day as the first.
 
When the Jews rebelled against Roman rule, they believed that their leader, Simon bar Kochba, would fulfill their messianic longings. But their hopes were cruelly dashed in 133 CE as the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in the final battle at Betar. The date of the massacre? Of course—the 9th of Av!
 
One year after their conquest of Betar, the Romans plowed over the Temple Mount, our nation's holiest site.
 
In 1492, the Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land. The edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country. The Hebrew date on which no Jew was allowed any longer to remain in the land where he had enjoyed welcome and prosperity? Oh, by now you know it—the 9th of Av.
 
The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE on, you guessed it, Tisha b'Av.
 
Ready for just one more? World War II and the Holocaust, historians conclude, was actually the long drawn-out conclusion of World War I that began in 1914. And yes, amazingly enough, Germany declared war on Russia, effectively catapulting the First World War into motion, on the 9th of Av, Tisha b'Av.
 
What do you make of all this? Jews see this as another confirmation of the deeply held conviction that history isn't haphazard; events – even terrible ones – are part of a Divine plan and have spiritual meaning. The message of time is that everything has a rational purpose, even though we don't understand it.

* * *

 

 
Chai (18) Elul
 
 
 
Baal Shem Tov
 
 
 
 
Elul 18 is the birthday of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism
 
Rabbi Israel was born in a small town in Ukraine in 1698. His father, Rabbi Eliezer, who was a member of the secret society of "hidden tzaddikim," passed away when young Israel was only five years old; his last words to his son were, "Fear nothing but G-d alone. Love every Jew with all your heart and all your soul."
 
The young orphan would spend much of his time wandering and meditating in the forests that surrounded his hometown; there, he one day met with one of his father's compatriots, and eventually joined their society. For many years, he lived disguised as a simple innkeeper and clay-digger, his greatness known only to a very small circle of fellow mystics and disciples. But on his 36th birthday, he was instructed by his master to "reveal" himself and publicly disseminate his teachings.
 
Drawing from the mystical "soul of Torah," the Baal Shem Tov ("Master of the Good Name," as he came to be known) taught about the spark of G-dliness that is to be found in every creation, and about the great love that G-d has for each and every one of His children, scholars and simple folk alike. He emphasized the importance of joy and simple faith in serving G-d, rather than asceticism. Initially, his teachings encountered fierce opposition from the scholarly elite and established leadership of the Jewish community; but many of those very scholars and communal leaders ended up becoming his devoted disciples. When Rabbi Israel passed at age 62 on Shavuot of 1760, the movement he founded was well on the way of becoming the most vital force in Jewish life.
 
* * *
 
First Chabad Rebbe 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder of the "Chabad" branch of Chassidism, was born on Elul 18 of the year 5505 from creation -- the 47th birthday of his "spiritual grandfather", His famous work, Tanya, is studied and discussed in the greatest schools of thought to this day.   
 
Chassidic Holiday
 
"Chai Elul" (Hebrew for "the 18th of Elul," also meaning "the life of Elul") is celebrated by the Chassidic community as the birthday of the "two great luminaries" -- Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism; and Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad. Chassidim wish each other "Gut Yom Tov!" and conduct joyous gatherings called farbrengens.
 
12 Days of Reflection
 
Elul, the last month of the Jewish year, is a month devoted to stocktaking and introspection. A Chassidic tradition holds that the last twelve days of the year -- Elul 18 to 29 -- are specifically devoted to the twelve months of the closing year: on each of these twelve days, one should review the deeds and achievements of its corresponding month.

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