The Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av

The Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av

The Three Weeks is an annual mourning period that falls out in the summer. This is when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and our launch into a still-ongoing spiritual exile.

The period begins on the 17th 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. The fast of the 17th of Tammuz is referred to as a minor fast day meaning we refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to nightfall. This year, services for the 17th of Tammuz will take place on Thursday July 9.

This period of semi-national mourning reaches 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, according to tradition, that many other tragedies befell our people (including the spies returning to Moshe with a negative report regarding entering the Holy Land, the Romans plowing the Temple and the expulsions of the Jewish communities in both Spain and England). The fast of Tisha B'Av is a major fast day, meaning we fast from nightfall until the conclusion of the day.

This year our services for Tisha B'Av, which will include the chanting of the Book of Lamentations, will take place on Wednesday July 29 and the fast will conclude at nightfall on Thursday July 30.

There are various mourning-related customs and observances that are followed for the entire three-week period. We do not cut our hair, purchase new clothes, or listen to music. No weddings are held.

The final Nine Days of the Three Weeks are a time of intensified mourning. Starting on the first of Av, we refrain from eating meat or drinking wine, and from wearing freshly laundered clothes.

In our day and age, some people have a theological issue when pondering mourning the destruction of the Temple and conquest of Jerusalem. It may seem antithetical to mourn when we are blessed to live during a time of Jewish sovereignty in the State of Israel. Nonetheless, perhaps this period gives us the opportunity to recall our past and think about the blessings of Jewish independence, while at the same time, acknowledging that, like here in America, there is still much work to be done until we realize ultimate peace and redemption throughout the world.