Five things happened to our ancestors on
the 17th of Tammuz: 1) The tablets were broken,
2) the continuous [daily offering in the Temple] ceased, 3)
The city [walls] were breached, 4) Apustumus burned the Torah,
5) A graven image [idol] was placed in the Sanctuary [by Menashe]
Mishne Taanit 26a-b
We now begin the saddest period in the year called
The Three Weeks Tammuz 17-Av 9 commemorating
the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem, the first
Temple 2425 years ago, the second one 1935 years ago.
Thousands of years have passed. Why would we still
be mourning the destruction of a
building?! True, it was
a holy edifice, the holiest on Earth. But it was still a structure
of stone. What did this building carry that would cause millions
of people to continue grieving over its loss, and praying for
The answer is that the Temple wasnt a mere
structure of bricks and mortar. It was a window a literal
gate between heaven and earth. Build Me a Sanctuary,
G-d says, and I will rest among you.
There are those that see the symptoms of pain;
and there are those that look for its roots. Many terrible tragedies
have befallen people throughout history. Many important events
to commemorate. However, by remembering and mourning the destruction
of the Temples, we get to the root of all our troubles.
That root being: The dichotomy between our inner
spirits and our outer lives. The Temple was a gate that bridged
the two. Its destruction reflected and exposed
the duality of our lives.
Awareness is the first step in healing from any
trauma or abuse. Awareness is half the cure of an illness. Denial
doubles its effects.
Should we ignore the destruction of the Temple
and continue to live our lives oblivious of the destruction,
we then would be forced to always suffer its symptoms, never
getting to the cause. By acknowledging the root of the problems
and acknowledging it in real action: in this time period
of The Three Weeks we are forbidden to make weddings,
listen to music, purchase new clothing, and do anything that
brings excessive joy we make our first step toward complete
Commemorating the destruction of the Temple is
recognizing the root of all our problems personal, psychological,
interpersonal, national and historical. Were we able to bridge
the dual forces that split us apart and discover the underlying
unity within, all our problems would be gone.
But that is simpler said than done. We therefore
cannot suffice in just recognizing that all forms of destruction
are rooted in the split between the sacred and the secular manifested
in the Temples destruction. We need ways to better understand
this root, so that we can find ways to actually repair the problem.
The Mishne therefore tells us that five tragic
events happened both on the 17th of Tammuz and the
9th of Av. These five events are actually a breakdown
of the roots of all trauma and pain:
1) The tablets
The first of the five events offers us insight
into the dual nature of all things that break in
our lives. On one hand, a broken thing is not a positive experience.
On the other hand, when something breaks it is a signal that
warns us that there is an underlying problem. Had it not cracked
and broke, we would never know that we need to repair the underlying
By breaking the tablets, Moses actually was expressing
the true nature of the peoples relationship with G-d as
a result of them building the Golden Calf: They had broken their
commitment and thus, compromised their relationship.
In other words: The breaking of the tablets was
not the cause of the problems, it was the effect. These
tablets represented G-d giving His Essence to the people. Just
as the sacred words of the Ten Commandments were engraved on
these stone (sapphire) tablets, so too was G-d engraving Himself
into our very beings. By building the Golden Calf and worshipping
a false G-d, the people in effect broke this essential
connection (on a conscious level at least). Moses was simply
demonstrating in real life this spiritual break by physically
breaking the tablets.
And in doing so, Moses brilliantly and subtly
revealed the cure [the cure precedes the illness]:
Feel broken for your errors, and you are on your way to redeeming
them. Nothing is as complete as a broken heart,
says the Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak. The first step to healing and
growth is humbly recognizing that you are broken. If you feel
complete when you really are not, you are truly broken. When
you are aware that you are broken, then you will look for ways
to repair yourself.
This is why the broken tablets lay side by side
with the complete ones in the holy Ark in the Temple. If they
represented only the tragic event of Moses breaking them, why
would we need to remind ourselves of that fact by preserving
the broken pieces? But they always carry a positive message:
A reminder that there is a break in our lives, and for something
to be truly complete we must also feel how we are broken. Not
a demoralizing feeling of being broken, but an uplifting one
that motivates us to heal, grow and become greater than before.
Life breaks all people, but some are stronger
in the broken places. Only when they acknowledge that something
is broken. When you have hurt someone and broken something in
your life, but you go on as if nothing happened, it is hard
to imagine how you will ever heal the break.
The first root of trauma is when we break away
from our inherent (engraved) innocence, when we
betray our inner selves and wander away from our inherent connection
to our Divine Image. As G-d asks Adam after his sin: Where
are you. I dont recognize you I dont
see your Divine Image; you have betrayed yourself, you have
betrayed your essential self.
Being aware of this fact helps us find our way
back. Allowing this break to perpetuate until it becomes the
status quo, the natural state of affairs,
is not only tragic, but leaves us with little hope for ever
The first event of 17th of Tammuz wakes
us up to the fact that there is something broken, and that we
have the power to fix it.
2) The continuous
[daily offering in the Temple] ceased
The constants in our lives are those eternal experiences
that are there for us even when all else is lost. Once a constant
has ceased, the end is near.
There were many activities and services in the
Temple. But the most enduring one was the tomid,
the daily offering that was brought each day of the year, including
Shabbat, holidays, even Yom Kippur, without fail. Once the enemy
caused this constant to cease, the Temples fate was sealed.
We all go through many fluctuations in the vicissitudes
of our lives. Ups and downs. But never allow a bad mood, a blip
on the screen, to stop your good habits, the things that you
do without fail.
Consistency is a very powerful force. Not the
cramming all in one day, but the incessant and relentless persistence
is what creates true and enduring change in the world. Witness
all the greatest innovators: Persistence was the ultimate key
to their success. Absolute belief in your cause and the determined
commitment to make it happen.
From time to time we need a jolting new experience
to ignite our spirits; but the key to success is always what
happens the day after the inspiration: Can you maintain it?
Hay may light quickly, but it also burns out quickly.
Logs, good dry logs, take a while to ignite, but once they do,
they can be depended upon to warm you for an extended time.
3) The city [walls]
The wall around a city is only a wall, but it
protects the precious city. Our skin consists of outer layers
that are not nearly as life sustaining as our vital organs,
yet they are the key to protecting our insides from infection,
We build many walls in our lives to protect ourselves
and our loved ones. Walls include small things we do for our
beloved that may not be the essence of our relationship, but
they express by far the deepest dimension of our relationship.
The deepest love, for instance, is expressed not
in the things that you are required or asked to do; not even
in the things that your beloved alludes that you do; but in
the things that you do out of your sheer desire to please your
beloved, the so to speak optional walls you build
that surround and protect the vital aspects of the relationship.
Walls also include special care we take to ensure
that our weak and blind spots not get the better of us. When
you are particularly prone, say, to bouts of anger, you have
to build extra walls be extra careful, employ
additional measures to prevent this part if you to burst out
Each of us has areas of weakness where we need
protective walls and boundaries.
Never allow those walls to be breached. Never
think, hey who cares about the walls; as long as the inside
This is another root of trauma: Breached walls.
And the cure: To fortify the walls in your life.
burned the Torah
Torah is the mandate G-d gave us all as a blueprint
for life. Burning someones books is a desecration often
equal to burning the person himself. By burning his valuable
books, you are in effect burning his passions, his beliefs,
his very identity.
If this is true with many books, how much more
so with the Torah the Divine blueprint of life. Torah
was often the target of those that could not stand the absolute
devotion Jews showed to their Torah. Indeed, many a Jew risked
his own life to save a Torah scroll from being burned in a torched
synagogue. Why? Because Torah was not seen merely as a book;
it is our life and our sustenance, one with life
itself. If you burn my Torah, you are in effect burning my past
and my future. The Torah is my enduring link to generations
past, who passed it on to me, and to generations to come.
Understanding the root problem helps us uncover
its cure: Hold on strong to the Book. Ensure that you dedicate
time to study Torah, recognize its relevance to your life and
apply it. Strengthen your connection to its eternal power. This
is why we intensify Torah study during the Three Weeks, as the
prophet says: Zion will be redeemed with law [Torah] and
its captives with charity.
5) A graven image
[idol] was placed in the Sanctuary
A true enemy always likes to strike at the heart
of his adversary in order to humiliate and demoralize him. Placing
a tzelem a foreign image in the Sanctuary
was the ultimate insult and humiliation.
Each of us has a very pure place in our heart
and soul. It is the most beautiful spot in your life. Cherish
and protect it. Never allow anything to desecrate it. Because
after everything is said and done, this place is the key to
The last and final of the five roots of trauma
is desecration of your most intimate and precious side.
Ensure that your inner sanctuary always remains
clean and pure of foreign gods.
By recognizing and focusing on these five roots,
we can learn how to untangle the multiple mess of symptoms that
plague our lives and society at large.
This is all about us; on a final note, we do have
one request to G-d:
For thousands of years a nation has been mourning
because of these five events. We have not forgotten. We have
searched for and found the roots of so many of lifes problems.
We have brought civilization to this world. We have demonstrated
the power of faith and hope, even under most severe circumstances.
How much longer do we need to cry during these