On Tuesday, July 15th, we begin the “Three Weeks,” where we mourn the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, and the subsequent exile of the Jewish People from the Land of Israel. This mourning period begins with the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz and concludes with the Fast of Tisha B’av (Ninth of Av) on July 26th. In addition to the destruction of the Temple ,in Jewish tradition this period commemorates other tragedies that befell the Jews, and is therefore considered an inauspicious time in the Jewish calendar.
However, the following questions may be asked: What purpose is there in mourning something that occurred over 3,000 years ago? Aren’t there more recent events more worthy of our attention? After all, shouldn’t we be more concerned with more current affairs, such as the state of the Middle East, or tikkun olam (social justice)?
While these may all seem like valid questions, in truth, the reason why the “Three Weeks” is stressed is due to its universal and relevant nature. According to Jewish tradition, the calamities that befell the Jews during the “Three Weeks” were because of sinat chinam, baseless hatred for one another. Thus, our Sages deemed it necessary to stress these events because at their very core lie the root of all evil – a complete and utter disregard for the sanctity of human life. Our differences have caused us to build prejudices against people or things that seem different than us. We often hate just “because.”
In order to dispel these forces of negativity, our Sages advised that we stop and reflect on moments in history where humanity has fallen into such a trap. That is why such an emphasis has been placed on Holocaust remembrance and other such genocides. In order to prevent further evils, one must get to the root of what caused those in the past to err.
These “Three Weeks” allow us the opportunity to reflect on the past, thereby strengthening the present and shaping the future of the Jewish people.