BETWEEN THE STRAIGHTS
Rabbi David Walk
The title for this week's article comes from the King James Bible's (1611) translation of the third verse in the book of Lamentations, and has become the traditional name of the three week period from the seventeenth of Tamuz until the ninth of Av. The former is the date of the sin of the Golden Calf and later was when the Romans breached the walls of
The Sages left us a trail, I believe, to help us discover the real meaning of these days. That trail is the series of Haftorot designated to be read during this time period. Throughout the year we generally read sections from the Prophets which parallel the material from that week's parsha, but from the fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz until Rosh Hashanah we read material which gets us into the mood of the season. The first three are called the Three of Troubles, and set the tone for the mourning of these three weeks. Then we read those called the Seven of Consolation which help prepare us for the Days of Awe. It's these first three which I would like to focus upon.
The initial one, read last week, is the first chapter of the book of Jeremiah. This material is mostly about the appointment of Jeremiah as a prophet. However, we're more concerned for the verses of warning to the Jewish people concerning the calamities about to befall them: And the Lord said to me; From the north the misfortune will break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. For, behold I am summoning all the families of the kingdoms of the north, says the Lord, and they will come and place, each one his throne at the entrance of the gates of
The second Haftorah, which we read this week continues this theme of punishment for our disloyalty to God: So says the Lord: What wrong did your forefathers find in Me, that they distanced themselves from Me, and they went after futility and themselves became futile? And they did not say, "Where is the Lord, Who brought us up from the
I find it fascinating that these three disasters are the antithesis to the marvelous blessings rendered by Bilaam. He told us: How can I curse whom God has not cursed, and how can I invoke wrath if the Lord has not been angered (Numbers 23:8)? But now God has become very angry. Next he said: He does not see any evil in Jacob, and has observed no perversity in
What's amazing about this guided course through the tribulations of Jewish history is that we're being shown both sides of this great issue. First we're shown how magnificent we can be. What a great example we can be for humankind. Then there is presented for our consideration all the degradation we have achieved. It's important that there are three items on each side of this social equation because we have betrayed the three basic components of the Jewish potential for greatness: our relation ship with God, our building of communities and our development of our souls.
It's crucial that both possibilities are displayed for our perusal, because we must go through the mourning of lost greatness with awareness of the fact that it doesn't have to be this way. We can use these three weeks to remind ourselves of how things should be and follow that trail back to where we belong: loyal to God, kind to others and spiritually strong within ourselves.
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