Monday, July 8, 2013

3 Weeks of What?

There are lot of Jews whose sense of Jewish identity was created or strengthened in Jewish summer camp.  While I am one to call them Jew-topic, I myself am a product of the Jewish camping experience.  One of the more ironic aspects of camp is that aside from the 8 shabbatot in summer, the 'three weeks' and tisha b'av are the only holidays to teach and celebrate - so they really do them well.

However I think is important to re-approach how we look at the period 'Between the Straits' - the mourning and customs that surround this propitious time in Jewish History.  For example, one of the common customs is not to eat meet during the 9 days of Av.  This minhag is grounded in two principles:

  • The loss of the Temple sacrifices - most of the sacrifices where of animals and to remind ourselves of the loss of this service (the tamid) we refrain from eating meat and even from wine (libation offerings).
  • Meat = Joy - sorry vegans and vegetarians, but many rabbis associate meat eating with Joy; thus with the loss of the Beit HaMikdash, we show our mourning by not eating meat, drinking wine, and wearing new clothes. 
An interesting point to ponder here is that on Shabbat one is permitted to eat, drink and be merry.  The imposed restrictions on wine and meat are lifted for the weekly day of rest.  It is commonly thought that these permissions stem from the ban on public mourning on shabbat (which even applies to an official mourner, someone in the first seven days after the death of an immediate relative or spouse).  I discovered a fantastic comment by the Netivot Sholom - Rabbi Sholom Noach Berezovsky - who offers us a proper re-approach to this special time period.

The point of the Beit HaMikdash was a direct divine earthly connection - a place for people to draw physically closer to God.  Thus the destruction of this house is a great tragedy and loss - worthy of two thousand years of tears.  The Netivot Sholom notes that the point of Shabbat is a day of the week that one can draw spiritually closer to God, and the core of creation.  Hereby Shabbat and the Beit HaMikdash offer the same divine connectivity, one in time the other in space.  With this metaphysical thinking, one does not feel the loss of the Temple on Shabbat - because you have that closeness manifested, and thereby can eat meat and drink wine.  On shabbat we have nothing to mourn -> for what we are mourning on Tisha B'Av is a loss of Godly intimacy and spiritual power that is inherently a part of the day of rest.  So be careful and thoughtful for what you are mourning this summer - whether you are at camp or working through the long summer days.  

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