Wednesday, July 12, 2006

17th of Tammuz and the Three Weeks

The 17th of Tammuz (this year the 13th of July) marks the day the walls of Jerusalem fell during the second Bais HaMikdash period, leading to the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash on the 9th of Av, and is the beginning of a period of mourning known as "The Three Weeks" or "Bain HaMetzarim" in Hebrew (lit. "between the straits"). It is a day of fasting (from dawn to nightfall) and is, most importantly, a day of teshuvah.

According to the Talmud (Taanis 26b), five tragedies befell the Jewish people on this day:
  1. The Jews worshipped the Golden Calf at Har Sinai.
  2. The daily sacrifices in the first Bais HaMikdash were stopped due to the Babylonian siege.
  3. Titus of Rome broke through the walls of Jerusalem.
  4. Apostomos, a Roman captain publicly burned a Torah scroll.
  5. An Idol was placed in the Kadosh HaKadoshim, the inner most part of the Bais HaMikdash.
In addition to fasting on the 17th of Tammuz, slichos, a series of special prayers, is said, as well as the long Aveinu Malkainu. The customs of mourning associated with the Three Weeks are:
  • Weddings are not held.
  • We don't listen to music.
  • We avoid public celebrations.
  • We avoid pleasure trips or other unusually fun activities.
  • No haircuts or shaving.
  • We do not say the shehechianu on a new fruit or new clothing, except on Shabbos. (Some refrain from this even on Shabbos.)
There are also additional restrictions that apply to the last part of the Three Weeks, as we get closer to the 9th of Av. Note that Sefardic customs can be different from what is mentioned above.

For more information visit:

Aish HaTorah



Anonymous Oyster said...

Great post. I'll be sure to fast tomorrow. I'll set my clock to wake up before sunrise...

Also, it was the Roman General Vespasian who broke through the city walls of Jerusalem. Titus was safe & sound in Rome at the time. Perhaps that's what you meant.

It's so fitting that we're fasting now, and I'm afraid of the implications of Israel's current crisis falling on the 17th of Tammuz... :-(

Wed Jul 12, 11:08:00 PM 2006  
Blogger JewSlug said...

I didn't even know it was a fast day until I read your post Fedora Black. Sure enough, it says Fast of Tammuz in my Hebrew calender, so I am going to see to it that I observe it as fully as I can.

I was already worried about the implications of the current crisis in Israel, and the fact that it falls near a time of mourning doesn't surprise me, seeing as how various calamities seem to befall the Jews on a constant basis. I just hope this doesn't turn into full-out war because I am about to go there and stay for five months.

I hope Hashem protects me.

Thu Jul 13, 02:37:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Fedora Black said...


Really? Wasn't Vespasian the father of Titus, and he sent his son to get at Jerusalem while he himself was trying to be emperor of Rome? Not having a copy of Tannis, I looked up the info in a secondary source (i.e the annotated edition of Tehillas Hashem, a.k.a. "the Chabad siddur"), and it could be that they use "Titus of Rome" to simply mean his army and not that he was there himself. Anyone know?


As I mentioned the main "avoda" of the day is teshuvah. The fasting is only part of it, as it makes us more distant from the physical, and a bit more directed towards the spiritual (which does not need food as we know it to function). Given what is going on in the State of Israel, the aspect is very relevent. There is a clear "feedback" system between what goes on in our world and what goes on in the higher worlds. The Melitzer Rebbe, shlita, for example, has said that if each Jew takes some small aspect of their lives and decides to be better, it will make a tremendous impression in heaven. So take one thing and focus on it today.

Don't worry about going to Israel now. The world is a dangerous place in general. You probably have a greater chance of being hit by a bus in California, than being killed in Israel (G-d forbid!). I know that if I had a choice between being dying in a car crash on the 101 or being shot in Israel, I'd rather be shot in Israel and die in the Holy Land.

Thu Jul 13, 04:48:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Fedora Black said...

And I of course meant to reply to oyster, and not the g-man, who didn't comment on anything. Sorry!

Thu Jul 13, 12:39:00 PM 2006  
Blogger G-D SQUAD said...

FB: That was Oyster from OyBay! who left that comment, not I.

But excellent post. I just got online to do a little learning, and look at the little gem I found right here on the JewniProj! Yasher koach.

Yeah, so the fasting is the easy part. It's the tshuva and praying with kavanah that's giving me a hard time.

Pray for our brothers and sisters in Israel and the Middle East--G-d should protect them in this time of uncertainty.

Thu Jul 13, 12:48:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Oyster said...

Vespasian (his original name might cause confusion: 'Titus Flavius Vespasianus') was Titus' father. Vespasian had to head back to Rome in 70 CE in order to struggle for the succession of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. So Titus (not emperor at the time) did take charge of laying seige to Jerusalem. Later, his father Vespasian succeeded the Year of the Four Emperors to become Emperor of Rome, and when he died, Titus became Emperor.

And you might find this bit interesting:

According to the Babylonian Talmud (Gittin 56b), a mosquito flew in Titus' nose and picked at his brain. When he died, they opened his skull and found a mosquito the size of a bird. This was Divine retribution for his wicked actions, and had caused his death. Some Jewish commentators, however, do not take this literally.

And this:

Due to the depiction of the destruction of Jerusalem and the desecration of the Temple, many Jews refuse to walk underneath the arch to this very day.

Thu Jul 13, 12:49:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Oyster said...

There are also additional restrictions that apply to the last part of the Tree Weeks

I think you meant 'Three Weeks'. :-p

Thu Jul 13, 01:21:00 PM 2006  

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