Tammuz 17 and the Three Weeks: Destruction and Renewal
Submitted by board member, Rabbi/Cantor Anne Heath
Observance of the minor fast day of the 17th of Tammuz (July 24, 2016) begins The Three Weeks of Mourning leading to the most somber of fast days, the 9th of Av (Tisha b’Av, August 14, 2016).
Included in The Three Weeks are The Nine Days – from the first day of Av until Tisha b’Av itself. Both periods have increasingly focused mourning practices with a minimization of joy, celebration and even everyday comforts.
On the 9th of Av/Tisha b’Av we mourn the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews during the times of the destructive loss of our spiritual center, the Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred not once, but twice: 586 BCE by the Babylonians and 70 CE by the Romans.
A full sundown to sundown, 24+ hour fast, extensive additions to the morning prayer service in the form of penitential prayers, chanting of the Book of Lamentations, and songs of lament/kinot are all a part of Tisha b’Av mourning practices.
We come out of the dark sorrow of The Three Weeks and Tisha b’Av into the hope of restoration expressed by our prophets. Each Shabbat/Sabbath between the end of Tisha b’Av and the Jewish New Year/Rosh Hashanah brings words of comfort from the prophets as part of these seven Shabbat morning services.
MyJewishLearning.com is good source of information about the background and traditional observances of these commemorations. Click on the following items to learn more:
The 17th of Tammuz
The Three Weeks of Mourning
In regards to spiritual practices over the centuries and into today’s Jewish world, Jay Michaelson “beat me to the punch” with his article on Fasting from a Functional Perspective. I’m not as wise or articulate as he and am glad to have his insights to share with you.
Listed at the bottom are additional links, should you be interested in exploring more aspects of what makes Jewish mid-summers somber.
At the heart of the matter for me this year comes the intersection between the particular – my Jewish observance – and the universal – the state of the world today.
I want to encourage you not to suffer alone from the pain that national and international events bring, but to find a community of people with whom to mourn the now all-too-regular tragedies.
If you are out of words, I share these from my tradition, hoping they might prompt words of your own. They come from one portion of the lengthy traditional prayers for fast days – Selichot – prayers asking not only for forgiveness, but for mercy and for a way back from the depths of despair – a mournful cry of a mythic-historic despair that remains real for me and many others.
As you start with the prayer pattern below, find a way to make the words your own. From my faith I can speak them. Maybe you cannot. Adjust them to voice your soul’s longing to be answered. Find your community. Make a community. Say them out loud. Sing them out loud. Hear one another. Share the pain to lessen the pain, then turn from the pain and move into the “what’s next.”
ANEINU – Answer Us
Answer us, Lord, answer us.
Answer us, our God, answer us.
Answer us, our Father, answer us.
Answer us, our Creator, answer us.
Answer us, our Redeemer, answer us.
Answer us, You who seek us, answer us.
Answer us, God who is faithful, answer us.
Answer us, You who are ancient and kind, answer us.
Answer us, You who are pure and upright, answer us.
Answer us, You who are alive and remain, answer us.
Answer us, You who are good and do good, answer us.
Answer us, You who know our impulses, answer us.
Answer us, You who conquer rage, answer us.
Answer us, You who clothe Yourself in righteousness, answer us.
Answer us, supreme King of kings, answer us.
Answer us, You are supreme and elevated, answer us.
Answer us, You who forgive and pardon, answer us.
Answer us, You who are righteous and straightforward, answer us.
Answer us, You who are close to those who call, answer us.
Answer us, You who are compassionate and gracious, answer us.
Answer us, You who listen to the destitute, answer us.
Answer us, You who support the innocent, answer us.
Answer us, God of our fathers, answer us.
Answer us, God of Abraham, answer us.
Answer us, Terror of Isaac, answer us.
Answer us, Champion of Jacob, answer us.
Answer us, Help of the tribes, answer us.
Answer us, Stronghold of the mothers, answer us.
Answer us, You who are slow to anger, answer us.
Answer us, You who are lightly appeased, answer us.
Answer us, You who answer at times of favor, answer us.
Answer us, Father of orphans, answer us.
Answer us, Justice of widows, answer us.
Additional lines follow in a new pattern – in the manner of “The One who answered *****, answer us” where the ***** represents historical figures from Abraham through Ezra to the “so many righteous, devoted, innocent and upright people.” We conclude with
Loving God, who answers the oppressed: answer us.
Loving God, who answers the broken-hearted: answer us.
Loving God, who answers those of humbled spirit: answer us.
Loving God, answer us.
Loving God, spare; Loving God, release; Loving God, save us.
Loving God have compassion for us now, swiftly, at a time soon coming.
Kein yehi ratzon – Thus may it be so.
Additional Links with Information, Points of View and Practices
From the Meaningful Life Center
Aspects of Jewish law related to the 17th of Tammuz and The Three Weeks
An adult education lesson plan related to Tisha b’Av from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles
About The Three Weeks, from the Velveteen Rabbi
A “passionate colorful totally imperfect mother of 8” – Rivka Malka writes of The Three Weeks and Healing the World Through Love
A journalist writing of her path through one year of Jewish holidays, festivals, memorials and commemorations.
Prayer translations taken from the Koren Sacks Siddur. Any typing errors are mine alone.