Jews Fast, Mourn on 17th Day of Tammuz
Israel National News (Link) (July 9, 2009)
The "Three Weeks" of gradually-increasing mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temples and Israel's exile begins Thursday with the fast of the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz. This is the day on which Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces breached the walls of Jerusalem, after many months of siege, on their way to destroying the Holy Temple.
The Three Weeks end on the 9th of Av - Tisha B'Av - the date on which both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, roughly 2,500 and 2,000 years ago, respectively.
The 17th of Tammuz marks other calamities in Jewish history as well. It is the date on which Moses, having descended from Mount Sinai and seeing the people sinning with the Golden Calf, broke the first set of Ten Commandments. In addition, the priests of the First Temple era were forced on this day - a year before the Temple's destruction - to stop offering the daily sacrifice due to the shortage of sheep.
The Talmud also teaches that on this date some decades earlier, the evil King Menasheh had an idol placed in the Temple's Holy Sanctuary. Later, during Second Temple times, a Roman general placed an idol in the same place and publicly burned the Torah.
The fast ends at 8:10 PM, but other mourning customs, such as no weddings or haircuts, continue until the morning after Tisha B'Av.
Like other fast days, the morning prayers include special selichot prayers, mourning our losses and asking for forgiveness. Excerpts from the selichot of the 17th of Tammuz:
"We rebelled against Him Who dwells in heaven, therefore we were scattered in all directions... We acted rebelliously before Thee with slandering tongues, therefore our tongues were made to learn to utter lamentation... The tempest-tossed afflicted people were utterly broken up and dispersed; the dry land became a boat wrecked for lack of a captain; she received [punishment] for her sins with principal and double interest, with mourning and moaning... Their adversaries assailed them on that day and... drove the nation like a chased gazelle, and there was none that sought to protect it... Turn to us, O Thou that dwellest on high, gather our dispersed from the four corners of the earth. Say to Zion, Arise! And we shall arise. Convert the 17th of Tammuz into a day of salvation and comfort." (translation by Rev. Abraham Isaac Jacob Rosenfeld)
Click here to read articles on the Three Weeks.
So here is a more complete list of significant events on this date in Jewish history and why it is a time of mourning for the nation of Israel:
- Av 9, 1312 BC - The ten spies brought the bad report leading to the wilderness wandering. See also: 14,000 Days
- Av 9, 586 BC - Babylonians destroy Solomon's temple. See also: Ezekiel's 430 Days
- Av 9, 70 AD - Romans destroy 2nd temple. See also: Daniel's 70 Weeks
- Av 9, 135 AD - The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. The city of Betar -- the Jews' last stand against the Romans -- was captured and liquidated. Over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered.
- Av 9, 1290 AD - July 25, 1290 Jews forced out of England.
- Av 9, 1492 AD - August 11, 1492 Jews forced out of Spain.
- Av 9, 1914 AD - August 1, 1914 World War I Began (The immediate cause of the war was the June 28, 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb citizen of Austria-Hungary and member of the Black Hand. Wikipedia On August 1, 1914 Germany declared war on Russia)
- Av 9, 1942 AD - July 23, 1942 - Treblinka extermination camp opened in occupied Poland, east of Warsaw. The camp is fitted with two buildings containing 10 gas chambers, each holding 200 persons. Carbon monoxide gas is piped in from engines placed outside the chamber, but Zyklon-B will later be substituted. Bodies are burned in open pits. HistoryPlace
- Av 9, 2005 AD - Starting at midnight on August 14, 2005, the entry and presence of Israeli citizens in the areas to be evacuated was prohibited under paragraph 22A of the Implementation of the Disengagement Plan Law 2005. Disengagement from the Gaza Strip was completed on August 22, and from northern Samaria on August 23, 2005. Related news articles here.
- Gaza Evacuation: The Beginning of Dividing Israel for Peace - Israel's Disengagement Plan: Renewing the peace process