The Seventeenth of Tammuz: Fasting for the Walls of JerusalemTo this day, the 17th of Tammuz (known in Hebrew as “Shivah Asar B’Tammuz”) is a day of mourning and fasting for the Jewish people. Orthodox Jews refrain from eating and drinking on this day, though pregnant or nursing women are exempt from the prohibition.
To this day, the 17th of Tammuz (known in Hebrew as “Shivah Asar B’Tammuz”) is a day of mourning and fasting for the Jewish people. Orthodox Jews refrain from eating and drinking on this day, though pregnant or nursing women are exempt from the prohibition.
The 17th of Tammuz is not only important in itself as a day of mourning for the destruction of the First Temple; it is the start of the Three Weeks, a period of intense mourning that leads up to Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av) , the darkest day of the Jewish calendar. During these three weeks and on the day of Tisha B’Av, the Jews mourn the destruction of both their Holy Temples.
Tisha B'Av and Mourning the Lost Temples
Tisha B’Av itself is a fast day with even more prohibitions than the 17th of Tammuz: Jews who observe Tisha B’Av refrain from sitting on elevated furniture (such as chairs) and are even restricted in their washing and grooming habits. Today, Tisha B’Av is regarded as a day of mourning not only for the lost Temples, but also for particularly horrifying events in Jewish history, such as the Holocaust.
According to the Orthodox Jewish worldview, the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar was the beginning of the end for the Jewish people. While the Second Temple may have exceeded the First Temple in physical magnificence, it is regarded by some as having been less intrinsically holy than the First Temple. Many of the holy vessels had been looted by Nebuchadnezzar, and the miracles of the First Temple were for the most part absent in the Second.
An exception is the miracle of Chanukah, which took place in the Second Temple, and which stands as a high point in Jewish history. Before the miracle of Chanukah could take place, the Jews faced one of their bitterest enemies—and seemingly impossible odds.
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