A few days ago, with the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz, the period of the Jewish year known as the Three Weeks began. Technically lasting 22 days most of the time (23 this year because fasts that fall on Saturday [Shabbat] are pushed off to Sunday, this is a sad period, during with we commemorate many tragedies that have befallen us over the centuries, culminating in the Fast of the 9th of Av, on which we primarily mourn the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. On that date we take on many of the same obligations/actions that typically only those mourning the death of a close relative do, and there are some things, such as not wearing new clothing, that are in effect for the entire period of the Three Weeks.
But I’m not here to talk about the details of how we observe this pseudo-mourning period, at least not directly.
Jews have always been very good at commemorating tragedies, mourning and remembering those lost. That isn’t a bad thing; we must remember our history both in a macro sense and as relates to individuals. However, it seems to me that many, too many, of us have become fixated on the negative, on mourning the national tragedies, while not acknowledging things about which we should be proud.
As an example, let us return to the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz. The primary thing that occurred on that way was that, after several months of siege, the Romans breached the wall of Jerusalem, and four legions-worth of arguably the best trained and equipped soldiers of that age advanced to conquer of historic and eternal capital.
Now, anyone who has bee not Jerusalem’s old city can tell you that it takes maybe twenty minutes to leisurely walk from any of the gates to the Temple Mount, our holiest site and where the Jewish rebels made their final stand in the city. It took the Romans three weeks to fight through the Jewish warriors to get there. In total, from historical sources, the time from the start of the siege to the Temple’s destruction was seven months. Seven months.
Why do I rarely, if ever, hear Jews talk about this, let alone take pride in it?
With the establishment of the modern State of Israel and the Israel Defense Force, we certainly regained some measure of this pride and strength, but over time, especially over the last couple of decades, even Israelis seem scared of winning. There are of course many factors in this problem, such as politics, weak leaders, and leftism, but a lot of it goes back to what some of us refer to as the galut (exile) mindset; a fear of standing up for ourselves, and a pathological desire to be liked, even if it means taking poor actions.
The situation is far worse outside of Israel, primarily with Reform, Conservative, and unaffiliated Jews who really cannot stand it whenever we in Israel take military action to defend ourselves, but that mindset is creeping into religious Jews as well, as least in the United States.
We must regain the strength and pride, the genuine strength and pride, that two thousand years of exile and suffering have robbed us of. This is one of the reasons I chose to enlist in the IDF at age 27, and why I am fighting as hard as I can to get into a combat unit. I want to be a part of the solution to this problem.
To quote the late, great Rabbi Meir Kahane, may G-d avenge his blood:
“I prefer a powerful and proud Jewish State that is hated by the entire world than an Auschwitz that is loved by one and all.”
It is past time to stop acting like frightened sheep; it is time to act like lions. You can only deal from positions of strength if you wish to achieve your goals. I hope and pray that more people wake up to this.
So in this Three Week’s period, mourn the tragedies and losses of the past, but also remember the strength and pride we once had, and revive that just as we have revived the Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.
As important as remembering the past is, we must properly prepare ourselves for the future. We are not going to screw it up this time.
To everyone who will be fasting in just over two weeks, may it be a meaningful one, and the last Tish’a B’Av that is a day of sadness.
The Jewish warrior spirit still lives on, even if it is repressed in most of us. Remove the blinders that centuries of vilification have heaped upon many of the Jewish group that resisted the Roman’s, such as the Zealots and the Sicarii, and more modern groups like Etzel and Lehi, and celebrate their strength, pride, and dedication to our people. They were of course not perfect, but that is what history is here for: learn from their virtues as well as from their mistakes. Only thus can we avoid future catastrophes.
Until next time.
One thought on “The Three Weeks: A Time of Mourning–but Also Pride”
I think the Jewish’s sense of loss and pessimism in general refers to the pretty ubiquitous failure to succeed…by that I mean their successes have always been somewhat short-lived and usually accompanied by extensive pain and suffering. Perhaps that’s why they don’t tend to be focused on success and rather on figuring out how to survive even in the good times.
I can draw a parallel to the plight of the constantly desperately poor, of which I have been a part of for years. Our fight has devolved into only surviving, and enjoying the periods of plenty as ways to get as much as we can before the money runs out again. Thus, we don’t invest money, we don’t buy into things with a financial reward, and we don’t expect to ever do well or stop worrying if a pack of cheap noodles is going to feed everyone for a week. It doesn’t even occur to many that they can work toward getting past financial difficulties.
Personally, I’ve always viewed this time as a reminder of the suffering experienced, but also of hope in the future. As a potential/eventual convert myself, I want to share the experience of the Jewish people every way I can. It’s difficult, but I’m strangely excited about it. I’ve even started a blog detailing issues I’ve gone through as a way to remember to continue learning as much as I can while Im unable to attend a synagogue or learn in an official capacity. Thank you for your words…I appreciate them!