There are days when all Israel fasts because of the catastrophes and tribulations that occurred on these dates. The fast-days enumerated here are the four mandatory public fast-days in the Torah calendar besides Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
The fast of the 17th of Tammuz (29.06.10), is the start of a semi-mourning period known as The Three Weeks, a period of "Bein HaMetzarim," "Between the Straits," days of historical trouble, affliction and tragedy for the Jewish People, ending on the 9th of Av, (19-20.07.10), commemorating the destruction of the two Temples, and the resultant physical exile and spiritual displacement--in which we still find ourselves.
The fast of Tammuz commemorates five tragic events that occurred on this date:
1. Moses broke the tablets when he saw
the Jewish people worshipping the
Golden Calf. 2. During the Babylonian siege on
Jerusalem, the Jews were forced to
cease offering the daily sacrifices due to
the lack of cattle.
3. Apustmus burned the holy Torah.
4. An idol was placed in the Holy Temple.
5. The walls of Jerusalem were breached
by the Romans, in 69 CE, after a lengthy
siege. (Three weeks later, after the Jews
put up a valiant struggle, the Romans
destroyed the second Holy Temple on
the 9th of Av) .
The Jerusalem Talmud maintains that
this is also the date when the
Babylonians breached the walls of
Jerusalem on their way to destroying the
The purpose of such fast days is to awaken us and stir our hearts
toward repentance by recalling our own misdeeds as well as those of our ancestors.
By remembering these misdeeds, which we continue to repeat and which brings on similar calamities, we are motivated to return to the proper path of life.
"The period between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Ab is called "Yeme Ben Ha'mesareem", which literally means "the days between the narrow traits". The term is taken from one of the verses of the lamentations in Meghillath Ekha, which we read on the ninth of Ab: "Judah is gone into exile because of affliction, and because of great servitude; she dwelleth among the nations, she findeth no rest; all her pursuers (rodfe-ha) overtook her within the straits (yeme ben hametzarim)." (Lamentations 1,3). The word "Mesareem" (narrow traits) can also be interpreted as distress. Hence, we can understand this verse from a different angle: "All her (the Jewish nation's) pursuers overtook her during the days of distress". Days of distress are the twenty two days between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Ab, which are known to be times of great sorrow and affliction for the Jewish people. Many tragedies and calamities befell us throughout our history.
Our Rabbis of blessed memory, based on the Kabbala, explain that these days have another deep meaning. The word her pursuers in Hebrew (Rodfe-ha) can be divided into two separate words: "rodfe" and "Y-ah"-- those who search G-d. It is during these days that we can truly search G-d and find Him! This is the time to consciously make an effort to connect to our Father in Heaven" (Rabbanith Ruth Menashe).
Nehemiah 9:26-27 "And they disobeyed and rebelled against You, and they cast Your Law behind their backs,.. And You delivered them into the hands of their adversaries who distressed them, and at the time of their distress they cried out to You, and You heard from heaven, and according to Your abundant mercies, you gave them saviors, who saved them from the hands of their adversaries." See Obadiah 1:21.
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"And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea,
so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself
was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" (Matthew 8:24-25).
Psalm 121:1-4 "I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will
my help come? My help is from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to falter; Your Guardian will not slumber. Behold the Guardian of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." "Not only does Hashem not sleep, as in unconsciousness, but He does not even nap or slumber. His focus is always and constantly upon His children" (Rabbi Y. Reuven Rubin, Rhythm of the Heart -Tehillim Ch. 121, Torah.org).
Jonah 1:4-6 "But the LORD hurled a great wind into the sea,
and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. And the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god; and they cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it unto them. But Jonah was gone down into the innermost parts of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him: 'What meanest thou that thou sleepest? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.'
The story of Jonah is an allegory of Israel among the Seventy Nations, and how the terrible global storm sent by God as a result of Israel's flight from Him into sin eventually brings Jonah and all the nations to repentance and to know and fear God (Azamra).
The first day of the fifth month of Av (Sunday night-Monday 11-12 July) is the Yahrzeit of Aaron the High Priest (Numbers 33:38), and marks the beginning of the observance of the stringencies of The Nine Days, which culminate on Monday night-Tuesday 19-20 July with the fast of Tisha b'Av.
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The name of "Menachem Av" is also used. A possible explanation of that name is as follows: "Menachem" in Hebrew means the Comforter; "Av" means "father." In the name "Menachem Av," "The One Who comforts, the Av," could refer to Hashem, Who is called the Father, Who is the only One Who has the ability to comfort the Jewish People for all the tragedies that we have suffered in this month.
May we soon merit the fulfillment of the prophecy: "I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and make them rejoice from their sorrow" (Jeremiah 31:1-13) - with the return of the Exiles and the building of the Third Temple.
Psalm 30:11-12 "You have turned my lament into dancing for me; You loosened my sackcloth and girded me with joy. So that my soul will sing praises to You and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will thank You forever." Read also Isaiah Chs. 51, 61.
As darkness precedes dawn, so travail should be accepted as a prerequisite for success. Psalm 30 is a song by David, for the inauguration of the Temple built by Solomon.
1 Kings 8:22,33,46 While offering his inaugural prayer; "Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven... When Your people Israel are struck down before the enemy, because they sin against You, and shall turn again to You, and praise Your name, and pray and make supplication to You...
If they sin against You, for (there is) no man who does not sin, and You will be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, and their captors will carry them away captive to the land of the enemy, far or near.
And they shall bethink themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captors, saying, 'We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness.' See Deut. 4:27-31, Ch. 30.
And they shall return to You with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, who led them away captive,
and pray to You toward their land, which You gave to their fathers, the city that You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your Name.
And you shall hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven, Your dwelling place, and maintain their cause.
And forgive Your people what they have sinned against You, and all their transgressions that they have transgressed against You, and give mercy before their captors, that they may have mercy on them. For they are Your people, and Your inheritance, whom You have taken out of Egypt, from within the smelting furnace of iron." The oppression the Israelites suffered in Egypt is likened to a furnace in which metal is purified.
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Deut. 28:15,25,43 "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee...
The LORD will cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies;.. The stranger that is in the midst of thee shall mount up above thee higher and higher; and thou shalt come down lower and lower...
Lev. 26:16,17,25 "I also will do this unto you: I will appoint terror
over you,.. they that hate you shall rule over you;..
And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute the vengeance of the covenant; and ye shall be gathered together within your cities; and I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy."
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Judges 2:11-16 "And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord and they served the Baalim.
And they forsook the God of their forefathers, Who had brought them up from the land of Egypt, and they went after other gods, of the gods of the nations that were around them, and they bowed to them and they provoked the Lord.
And they forsook the Lord and served the Baal and the Ashtaroth.
And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers and they spoiled them, and He gave them over into the hands of their enemies around, and they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them, and they were greatly distressed. And the Lord raised up judges and they saved them from the hands of those who had spoiled them."
The intention of Gog and his allies is to despoil Israel of their wealth (Ezekiel 38:1-12) and appropriate their land (Ezekiel 36:2,5).
Joel 2:12-18 "Yet even now, saith the LORD, turn ye unto Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with lamentation; And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God; for He is gracious and compassionate, long-suffering, and abundant in mercy, and repenteth Him of the evil. Who knoweth whether He will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him, even a meal-offering and a drink-offering unto the LORD your God?
Blow the horn in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly; Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts (TO A NATIONAL DAY OF REPENTANCE AND A RETURN TO THE TORAH); let the bridegroom go forth from his chamber, and the bride out of her pavilion. Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say: 'Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not Thy heritage to reproach, that the nations should make them a byword: wherefore should they say among the peoples: Where is their God?' Then was the LORD jealous for His land, and had pity on His people..."
Jonah 3:9-10 "Whoever knows shall repent, and God will relent, and He will return from His burning wrath, and we will not perish.
And God saw their deeds, that they had repented of their evil way, and the Lord relented concerning the evil that He had spoken to do to them, and He did not do it." The Talmud brings that on public fast days when a sage would address the people exhorting them to repent, he would quote this verse, saying, "Brothers, it is not the fasting and sackcloth that cause God to take pity but the repentance in the heart and good deeds… It does not say 'And God saw their sackcloth and fasting' but 'And God saw their DEEDS, for they returned from their evil way'" (Ta'anis 16a).
Proverbs 11:4 "Riches will not avail on the day of wrath, but charity (Good deeds, kindness, tzedakah, righteousness) will save from death." (Proverbs 10:2, Daniel 12:3, 4:24, Psalm 41:2-4). It is customary to give extra charity on Tisha Be'Av.
Tisha B'Av 2011: Mourning Destruction but Hoping for Redemption: The fast of Tisha B'Av, "saddest" day in the Jewish calendar, begins Monday eve 08/08/11 at sundown. Temple's fall mourned, rebuilding awaited (INN).
The name of the month, Av, is used before the ninth of the month, Menachem Av after the ninth, in anticipation of the consolation which we have hoped for and awaited, ever since the calamities which befell us during this month.