This is a difficult time of the year to be Jewish.
Colloquially known as “The Three Weeks”, this is the length of time in the Jewish calendar every summer that we remember the various stages in the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians and later the second temple by the Romans over 2000 years ago. The three weeks increase in intensity and are occupied by two days of fasting.
When I was a child, I heard the adults talking about “The Three Weeks” and “The Nine Days” (the last, most intense days of that time). I had no idea what they were talking about, but I learned to fear this length of time because when the adults talked about the three weeks and nine days, they always projected a hint of despair and fear. We don’t listen to music or have weddings during the three weeks. In the last nine days of the three weeks, depending on the custom of Sephardi or Ashkenazi, we neither drink wine nor eat meat or chicken. While we can bathe and shower for hygienic reasons, we should reduce the time and fun in these activities. We also don’t go swimming, which is the biggest change in lifestyle for children.
It is interesting how the Jewish calendar goes through various emotional realities in human experience. I have found in previous columns that the journey through the Jewish calendar is basically an adventure through the full range of human emotions. We have joy, celebration, sadness, family time, community time, a time to dance, a time to sing, a time to be outside in a Sukka, a time to come inside and light candles. There is a time for the sound of the shofar and a time for the taste of the matzo and a time for the smell of the spices on Saturday evening.
Judaism is so emotionally rich in every way. There is no human emotion that is discouraged or suppressed in Judaism. We are taught that it is our responsibility to manage and control our emotions with our minds, but no particular emotion is bad or wrong or taboo.
While “The Three Weeks” has never been my favorite season, it is an opportunity to become thoughtful and thoughtful. It is time to express our feelings of despair and sadness for all the things that may or may not have been. The temple was the epicenter of the spiritual connection, and with its destruction, this simple pipeline was taken away from us. The rampant spiritual separation and loneliness that so many of us feel is directly related to the destruction of this temple 2,000 years ago.
So while I count down the days to the end of the three weeks and we can enjoy all the joys of life again, I feel secure in the structure of Judaism that guides us through all of our emotional states with grace and guidance. I feel connected to a community of Jews around the world who feel my feelings. And I feel like I’m looking for better times that I believe and hope and pray will be just around the corner.
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