The Three Weeks

by Rabbi Tzvi Alyesh

The Three Weeks, commencing on July 5th at sundown this year, bear immense significance in Jewish history and observance. A fasting day, known as the 17th of Tammuz, falls on July 6th, commemorating five catastrophic events, including the breach of Jerusalem’s walls by the Romans. This event marked the onset of looting, burning, and murder within the city, plunging it into chaos. To honor this somber occasion, we observe a fast, refraining from eating and drinking throughout the day. Three weeks later, on the 9th of Av the Romans reached Temple Mount and set ablaze our sacred Temple.

During the Three Weeks, we modify our behavior as an expression of mourning. Music and weddings are eschewed, and haircuts are postponed. As we enter the final nine days of this period, the intensity of mourning heightens. We abstain from consuming meat or chicken, except on Shabbat, and we refrain from drinking wine. Showering is limited, and fresh clothing is left unwashed.

In light of these practices, a thought-provoking question arises, particularly during this season: Can we, as a generation seemingly detached from spirituality, bring forth the Messiah through our merits? Moreover, though Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz, who passed away in 1936, offered his insights before the war, his commentary on pre-war behavior resonates powerfully in our twenty-first-century context. We witness a decline in moral values across successive generations, exemplified by the audacity displayed by today’s youth towards their elders. Modesty has significantly diminished, and our ability to communicate and exhibit respect for others has been profoundly impacted by the rapid and all-consuming nature of social media. In light of these circumstances, it is only natural to question whether we possess the potential to usher in the Messiah within our present era.

Rabbi Levovitz, despite his departure from this world in 1936, remarkably anticipated the challenges that resonate with our generation. He astutely recognized that personal growth often occurs during moments of vulnerability when we hit rock bottom and must exert significant effort to rise again. These arduous periods cultivate within us unparalleled resilience. Consider the experiences of couples who have been brought closer together by overcoming challenging circumstances such as difficult pregnancies, the loss of loved ones, financial hardships, or the struggles of raising difficult children.

In light of the prevalent challenges we face, including the pervasive influence of technology, our generation has become less productive, contrary to what one might expect. Countless hours are spent passively consuming staged events on social media platforms. However, when we consciously choose not to indulge in social media during work hours or when spending time with friends, we demonstrate remarkable strength. The act of detaching ourselves from our phones and wholeheartedly engaging with our loved ones is a formidable undertaking. By triumphing over these alluring and addictive behaviors, we develop an unparalleled level of determination and resilience, surpassing that of any previous generation.

Thus, it lies within our reach, with the aid of Providence, to bring forth the Messiah in our generation. Let us recognize that Rabbi Levovitz’s insights, although provided in a different era, strikingly resonate with the challenges we face in the twenty-first century. As educated and sophisticated young professionals, we are keenly aware of the necessity for personal growth and transformation. By embracing the difficulty and challenges that come our way, we can forge a path of positive change in ourselves and our world.

In conclusion, as the adage aptly states, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” Embracing these challenges will not only enable our personal growth but also contribute to the profound transformation our generation can bring forth in our times!

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