The Fast of the 17th of Tammuz


Holiday #13 (327)

The 17th of Tammuz 5783

July 6

From Ascent Quarterly From the Chassidic Rebbes From

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From Ascent Quarterly

Five calamitous events occurred on the Seventeenth of Tammuz.

  • The first Tablets-of-the-Law were broken, when Moshe descended from the mountain and saw the golden calf and the accompanying dancing.
  • The daily sacrificial offering ceased in the first Temple (since the cohanim no longer found available sheep for the offering).
  • At the time of the destruction of the second Temple, the walls of Yerushalayim were breached.
  • Apustumus-the wicked, burned the Torah.
  • An idol was placed in the Sanctuary.

At the time of the destruction of the first Temple, the walls of Yerushalayim were also breached in Tammuz (on the ninth of the month). In order, however, not to burden the community excessively, the Rabbis did not designate both days as fast days, because of their proximity. They rather designated the commemoration of both events for the seventeenth of Tammuz, since the destruction of the second Temple is to us a greater calamity than that of the first Temple.


This year the 17th of Tammuz falls on Thursday, July 6. The fast starts before dawn and ends after dark. No eating or drinking. Special services at shul morning and afternoon. The money saved by not eating should go to charity; the time, to Torah-study and mitzvot-performance.

From the Chassidic Rebbes

Among the five events which occurred on the seventeenth of Tammuz is the destruction of the city of Yerushalayim. It is a day when gentiles (and, figuratively, a gentile lifestyle) broke through the wall that surrounded and defended Jerusalem.

This concept has a parallel in our lives. The Hebrew name of the city, Yerushalayim, is a composite of two Hebrew words, yirah, and shaleim, which combined mean “complete fear.” This is a level of fear that includes within it the totality of our service to G-d; affecting every aspect of our behavior.

Complete fear, as all other aspects of Torah and mitzvos, must be surrounded by a wall, as our sages said (Avos 1:2), “make a fence around the Torah.” In our personal lives this wall represents the practice of meditation, the acceptance of G-d’s yoke and the quality of self-annulment. When the wall around Yerushalayim is destroyed it is necessary to institute a fast. Through “losing fat and blood” we can correct the fault of lacking a wall, The fast is a mitzvah; by fulfilling the mitzvah we reestablish our connection with G-d and make ourselves one with Him.

There is another lesson to learn from the destruction of the wall around Yerushalayim. A wall is intended to separate those inside the city from all the influence that exist on the outside. Hence, the wall of Yerushalayim separated those who have complete fear from those who lack this quality. There are gates and passageways in the wall so that no two Jews will be completely separated from each other.

The above is true in normal times. However, in times such as these, the concept of “the city was destroyed,” and the wall of Yerushalayim being broken down, has a positive connotation as well. That connotation is that we must involve ourselves with other Jews, even those outside the wall around complete fear, over and beyond the call of duty—using the “doors and passage-ways.” We must show self-sacrifice, not considering any obstacles, and even put our own lives in danger in order to reach out to a Jew who lives outside Yerushalayim, and even one who lives outside the holiness of Israel in general.

(Based on Sichos in English vol. 6)

From "A Kind Suffering"

The Hebrew word Chesed, kindness, has a numeric value of seventy-two. Kabbalah teaches that the last seventy-two days of the Hebrew calendar year are permeated with Chesed, divine benevolence. This period begins on the seventeenth day of the Hebrew month, Tammuz.

This day is also the first of a three-week (plus one day) period during which we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile of the Jewish nation from Israel in the year 69 CE. Fasting and severe mourning mark the first and last days of this period as we respectively commemorate the anniversaries of the breach of Jerusalem's walls and the fall of the Holy Temple.

This begs a question. How can a period of such suffering be simultaneously permeated with divine benevolence?

The Hebrew word Tov, which means "good," has a numeric value of seventeen. The Bnei Yissachar teaches that this "good" is tied into seventeen days of this three-week period. What sort of goodness is connected with these seventeen days? A hidden one. The Talmud teaches that upon creation of the world G-d withheld a large measure of "goodness" and kept it in store, to be revealed when the Mashiach comes

These seventeen days may appear negative on the surface but are in fact fully permeated with divine goodness. Just below the surface lies an intense measure of "goodness," yet to be revealed.

The Talmud teaches that all punishment and suffering are veils drawn by G-d over kindness that is too powerful to be directly perceived. Yet the Psalmist promised that when Mashiach comes this veil will be removed and we will come to understand the positive import of our nation's suffering. At that time we will recognize the true character of divine benevolence that characterizes these seventeen days.

What of the Additional five days of this Period?

These five days are in fact not sad at all. They are comprised of three days of Shabbat and one day of Rosh Chodesh, all which fall during this period. The fifth day is the Ninth of Av, which was declared a festival by the prophet Jeremiah because the potential for Mashiach was born on this day.
May we merit the immediate unveiling of this goodness and may these days of mourning soon be transformed into days of celebration and joy.

[From an article by Rabbi Eliezer Gurkow on //; reprinted with permission]


for more Kabbalah insights on The Three Weeks


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