Rabbi Yehudah Prero
Beginning with the 17th day of the month of Tamuz, upon which we fast, the
nation of Israel observes a three week period of mourning, which concludes
with the fast of the 9th of Av. During these three weeks, great tragedies
befell the nation of Israel, the greatest of which was the destruction of
both the first and second Bais HaMikdosh, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. (For
more information on why we fast on these two days,see I: 27, 30, 31.)
The B'nai Yisaschar, in describing the significance of the months of
Tamuz and Av, writes that each of these months represents a specific power
or sense in mankind. Tamuz represents the power of sight, and Av represents
the power of speech. The importance of recognizing these attributes in
these months is only underscored by looking at how these months began their
association with sorrow and tragedy.
A few weeks ago, we read in the weekly Parsha how Moshe sent spies to scout
out the land of Cana'an, the land that the nation of Israel was destined to
enter and to settle in as their homeland. Spies were selected from each of
the tribes. These men were each great in their own right, and collectively
were a group of pious G-d-fearing men. This group of spies began their
journey at the very end of the month of Sivan. The entire month of Tamuz
was spent viewing the land, taking in the sights of the terrain, the
inhabitants, and the cities and towns. In the month of Av, these spies
Unfortunately, although all of these men started their journey as righteous,
their report about the land clearly indicated their lack of faith in G-d.
They all, except for Calev and Yehoshua, stated that they would not be able
to challenge the inhabitants of the land. They provided what the Torah terms
"Can evil" report, that caused the nation to panic and regret leaving Egypt.
For this blatant lack of faith in G-d, the failure to recognize all the great
miracles that He had done for the nation until that point, the entire nation
was punished. The spies died from a plague. The nation had to spend 40 years
in the desert before they would be allowed to enter the land that they so
foolishly feared. And the entire generation of men alive at the time would
never merit entering the land. The day on which this occurred was the 9th of
During the month of Tamuz, the spies were engaged in an extensive use of
their power of sight. They viewed all they had to see about the land. In the
month of Av, the spies had to use their power of speech to report that which
they had viewed. In both instances, the spies could have put these powers to
good use. They could have construed what they saw in a positive light,
instead of attributing to it the negative characteristics they subsequently
reported. This report, also, could have been positive, focusing on the great
benefit that was to come to the nation, of course with G-d's assistance.
Yet, the spies abused these two powers, an abuse which resulted in a
downfall for the entire nation of Israel. This downfall set the stage for
these two months being months of sadness for all time.
During the Three Week period, it is up to us to recognize the powers that
these months represent. We, if we use our powers of sight and speech
appropriately, can rectify the sorrowful situation that began with the spies.
If we make sure we only watch that which is befitting out pure eyes, and
refrain from uttering words that only serve to defile our lips, we will bring
ourselves closer to the time when these two months will be turned into months
Check out all of the posts on The Three Weeks: 17 Tammuz - 9 Av Mourning the Destruction. Head over to
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