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Fast of the 17th of Tammuz

Fast of the 17th of Tammuz

17th of Tammuz-5 Tragic Events that Befell the Jewish People

Published on Monday August 23th, 2021

Our Sages teach us that five tragic events occurred on the 17th of Tammuz:

1) The first tables of the law were broken, because of the sin of the golden calf

2) The cancellation of the Tamid sacrifice that was customary to bring during the first Temple

3) The fortified wall of the city collapsed during the destruction of the second Temple

4) Julian the Apostate, the disbeliever, burned the Torah scrolls

5) An idol was placed in the sanctuary

1.      The Tablets of the Covenant Are Broken

Upon his descent from Mount Sinai, Moshe Rabbeinu was utterly shocked by the scene he witnessed. The people were already deeply immersed in the filthy practices of idolatry only forty days after the gift of the Torah had been given.

The holy tablets he held in his hands suddenly became too heavy for him. The sacred letters engraved on the stone began to fly in all directions. Moshe was broken hearted and indignant: "How important can a missive on which the king is not a signatory be?'' This parable is obvious: "Are tablets without their content still of any importance? "

With an urge to condemn their unsustainable behavior, Moshe hurriedly threw the holy tablets down onto the ground. Our Sages bring a parable: a king decided to marry an allegedly virtuous woman. He drew up a marriage certificate, which he took care to entrust to one of his subjects. After a brief period, reports of her having a doubtful reputation began to circulate. The subject decided to tear the certificate saying: "It is preferable that she be judged as a single maiden rather than as a bride''.

Moshe acted in the same way. Realizing that the very existence of the people of Israel depended on their covenant with the Holy One, blessed be He, he knew that it was imperative to break the tablets of the covenant, otherwise they would serve as accusing agents against Bnei Yisrael, arguing, how did this people dare to deceive the Almighty after having perceived His proclamation on Mount Sinai: "I am Hashem thy G-d, you shall have no other deity before Me!” So, the Creator approved of Moshe's action of breaking the tablets and declared: "You have acted well! "

Our sages draw a fundamental lesson on this subject: if the first tablets had not been broken, none of the nations of the world would have had any influence over the people of Israel, the angel of death would have had no power, and no evil could have reached any one amongst them. But from this event of incalculable consequences, a celestial voice declares every day on Mount Sinai: "Woe to the creatures of G-d's who slighted the Torah! "

2.    The Cancellation of the Tamid Offering

The time of the destruction of the first Temple, soon after the collapse of the city walls, on the 9th of Tammuz, was the prelude to a troubled era for the people of Israel. Indeed, the abolition of the sacrifices in the Beit Hamikdash was the first symptom. Nevertheless, until that date, the Kohanim (priests) managed to hide in the Temple, thus ensuring that for eight days, the Tamid; an atonement offering, was offered on an individual and voluntary basis.

The 17th of Tammuz was the end of all services, thus the abolition of all the offerings, especially that of the Tamid. This was a precarious and catastrophic situation for the entire people of Israel because the cancellation of the Tamid meant the loss of the essential spiritual protection for all the people. A similar situation also occurred during the period of the Second Temple, during the siege of Jerusalem, where two boxes filled with gold were transported over the walls, for the Roman soldiers, who in return sent two lambs for the daily Tamid service.

3.    The Collapse of the Walls

The 9th of Tammuz is a symbolic date for our Sages. It corresponds to the collapse of the walls prior to the destruction of the first Temple. On this occasion, the Sages of Israel instituted a fast as a sign of mourning. By the second Temple however, the walls of the city collapsed on the 17th of Tammuz.

Thus, the Sages, led by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, decided to move the fast to the 17th of Tammuz because of the importance of the Second Temple in relation to its predecessor which was rebuilt. A significant number of walls stood imposingly, surrounding Jerusalem, thus providing the illusion that the city was an impregnable bastion. They were all destroyed by the Roman army.

 The 17th of Tammuz was a key day in the progression of the Roman siege. Indeed, the soldiers commissioned by Rome, were finally able to break through the famous wall of Antonio which was the central axis ensuring the protection of the city and the Temple. Once broken, albeit partially, it gave the Roman soldiers access to the Temple Mount. They rushed into it, encircled the Beit Hamikdash which they began to loot without restraint until its destruction on the 9th of Av.

4.    Julian the Apostate Burns the Torah Scrolls

This tragic episode is recounted in the Mishna in Taanit. In addition, the Talmud

Yerushalmi reports a controversy about the place where the event took place:

"Where did he burn it? According to Rabbi Acha, it was at the crossing points

leading to Lod; according to the Chachamim, it was at the crossing points leading to Tarloussa'.

But according to the Acharonim (sages who lived after the medieval period), it is rather about the time when the Roman advisor Konamos ensured that Roman's occupied Eretz Israel during the era of the second Temple. Thus, the historian Joseph Flavius ​​relates this event reported in the book of "Ephemerides of the Year": "During one of his travels, taking the path of Beit Choron, passage connecting the city of Lod to that of Jerusalem, Julian the Apostate, one of Caesar's helpers, was robbed by a horde of hoodlums who managed to flee. The Roman advisor Konamous, anxious to keep order in the region, began an investigation to establish the guilt of the surrounding suburbs, calling into question their activities at the time of the aggression and consequently, designating them as accomplices. He ordered the arrest of the inhabitants of these villages commanding them to appear before him. During one of the incursions of the Roman army, one of the soldiers seized a Sefer Torah which he began to tear before throwing it to the flames! "

The whole population was seized by hysteria, as if the earth under their feet had gone on fire. They decided to send emissaries immediately to advisor Konamos to bring the villain who had dared to undertake such an affront to justice. Thus, in order to dispel the rising winds of revolt, Konamous executed the Roman soldier.

5.      The Image of an Idol Is Placed in the Sanctuary

King Menashe, a descendant of the tribe of Judah, began behaving in a depraved way. Working to spread idolatry throughout the land of Israel, his goal was to provoke divine wrath. On the 17th of Tammuz, Menashe made the image of an idol which he placed in the sanctuary.

Pushing his impudence to its peak, he prostrated himself, giving his back to the sanctuary as if to further display his rejection of the divine yoke, and his face turned towards his idol thus displaying his penchant for idolatry. His multiple sins were to generate one of the most terrible decrees facing the Jewish people, namely the destruction of the Temple, as the prophet Jeremiah points out: "And I will make them an object of terror for all the nations of the earth, because of Menashe, the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and his action in Jerusalem ".

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