Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The High Holidays and the Three Weeks
Just last week I saw an big sign outside a synagogue advertising High Holy Day tickets to services. I was shocked. Here we are in the beginning of July and they are advertising early bird tickets. I could not believe it.
But the message planted itself into my brain and started bouncing around. It's true, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are only two months away.
One of the main ideas associated with the High Holidays is one of teshuva, return. We are attempting to return to G-d and doing the mitzvot. The time of year we try to make amends. Many people spend the week prior to the Holidays running around to their family, friends and acquaintances apologizing for the way they may have been mistreated over the past year.
I think that this is a nice idea, but there's a better time of year to begin this mea culpa ritual. I believe that the time is now.
There is a period of time during the Jewish calendar year called the "Three Weeks". This is a period in our history that includes terrible things that have happened over the last 4000 years. It's a period of mourning. It begins on the 17th of Tammuz (this year June 29) and ends on Tisha B'Av (this year July 20).
While there is more to the 17th of Tammuz than I am including here - I am going to focus on the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life. On the 17th of Tammuz the enemy broke through the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Second Temple. The Second Temple (and the First) was then destroyed on Tisha B'Av, the Jewish national day of mourning.
The Talmud teaches us that the reason that G-d allowed for the Second Temple to be destroyed was because baseless hatred had become prevalent within the Jewish People - known in Hebrew as sinat chinam (free hatred).
While it is difficult to imagine the High Holidays coming up, it may be a good time to think about that concept of teshuva. During the Holidays we are focused on our relationship with G-d, not on our relationship with others. In fact, G-d can not and does not forgive us for what we have done to our fellow man, rather G-d expects us to work on these relationships and right the wrongs which may have occurred.
Since this is the case, it is really up to us to do teshuva in the interpersonal relationships of our lives. During this period of the Three Weeks where we remember the loss of the Holy Temple due to our own loss of love and baseless hatred for our fellow Jew - this - is the time where we need to take the time and call our friends, family and acquaintances to ask for their forgiveness for any errors in judgement on our part. This is the time to outwardly show baseless love for all Jews. Don't wait for the High Holy Days to roll around, jump on the early opportunity today.