The sun is shining and the fields smile with ripening crops, but our gaze is turned to the past. It is thoughts of churban—destruction, overthrow and ruin—that sunny Tammuz brings into every Jewish heart.
Many a page of Jewish history has been written in tears, but the most tearstained pages have been those of the Three Weeks. The great tragedies of Jewish history—Nevuchadnetzar, Titus, Ferdinand, Hitler—all chose this period to unfold. The Three Weeks are a continuation of an ancient tragedy. The galus that began with Nevuchadnetzar will not end until the last trace of the doubts that brought it has been overcome.
For this reason, it is not mourning that dominates our remembrance for the churban, but fasting—that is, searching our hearts to find our way back, recognizing the causes of our downfall and mustering the energy to eliminate them. This is the task these fast days must strengthen us for.
In general, it is not joyful events that determine our duties. Every trouble that disturbs our lives also presents new openings for the accomplishment of our task. The task remains the same, both for the nation as a whole and for each individual: the observance of the Torah, the fulfillment of the Law transmitted to us at Har Sinai. The only thing that changes with our success or misfortune is the stage on which we play our part. So as long as the churban still affects us, we must keep coming together to examine and re-examine our lives in light of the event we are remembering.
“Whenever I visit them, I will visit this sin [Cheit HaEigel] upon them,” says G-d. Every future catastrophe is due in part to Cheit HaEigel, and we will have to atone for it. We cannot dare forget it, we cannot dare let the Three Weeks pass without gathering up the fragments of the luchos at the foot of the mountain, deciphering the warnings they hold for us.
Shouldn’t we seek to find out the source of all our errors, the root of all our suffering? During the Three Weeks, shouldn’t we make every effort to discover what has broken our luchos, and what we endure as long as they are broken?
Have a wonderful Shabbos,
Director, Ani Maamin Foundation
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Please note: This “Gem of the Week,” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s collected writings, with permission from the publisher.