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Photo: Henry Jabobs
Rabbi Levi Brackman
Photo: Henry Jabobs
We will certainly overcome
It is significant that the first rocket to hit a major Israeli city coincided with the beginning of the saddest part of the Jewish calendar – the three weeks of mourning
Besides the tragic loss of innocent lives in both Israel and Lebanon the Hizbullah rocket attacks have caused considerable other damage below the surface.

 

Families living in central Israel are housing refugees who have fled the rocket attacks on their hometowns in the North. Without workers in the North, crops that are ready to be picked are being left to rot. Tourism, which is usually booming during this time of the year, has taken a major hit. Israel is spending 20 million dollars a day on war.

 

The price of war is high and our hearts and prayers are with all the innocent victims of Hizbullah and their Iranian and Syrian sponsors – including the Lebanese people whose lives have been cynically taken advantage of by heartless and barbaric terrorists. All this makes somber, depressing reading.

 

Sad days

 

It is significant that the first rocket to hit a major Israeli city coincided with the beginning of the saddest part of the Jewish calendar – the three weeks of mourning.

 

Last Thursday was the 17th day of Tammuz, which commemorates the day in 69 CE when the armies of Rome breached the walls of Jerusalem. Three weeks later, on the 9th of Av, the Holy Temple was set aflame. The 17th of Tammuz and the Three Weeks also commemorate other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people throughout the ages.

 

Regarding the impending destruction of the Temple the Prophet Jeremiah (1:11-12) relates, “And the word of G-d then came to me, saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a staff of an almond tree.” G-d said to me, “You have seen well, for I hasten to fulfill my word.””

 

The Midrash explains the significance of the almond branch. An almond takes twenty-one days from the time of planting till the time of ripening similar to the number of days between the seventeenth of Tammuz, the day the city Jerusalem was breached, and the ninth of Av - the day the Temple was razed. By showing the almond branch G-d was saying that He was going to destroy Jerusalem in twenty-one days.

 

Fight for their lives

 

Jews have been subjected to persecution and exile almost as long as they have existed. Even now when for the first time in two thousand years Jews have their own homeland they still have to fight for their lives. We all have one question: when are we ever going to be able to live in peace and tranquillity? When will we stop mourning destruction after destruction?

 

The prophecy of Jeremiah regarding the destruction of the Temple gives us hope. Almonds start off as very bitter fruits: however when they ripen they become sweet. By showing the prophet an almond branch G-d was saying that although the picture seemed very bitter and bleak at that moment it would eventually turn sweet.

 

Indeed Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz, also known as the Shelah (1565-1630), points out that the Torah portions Matot, Masey and Devorim, which always fall out during the Three Weeks, talk about the victory of the Israelites over the nations and the division of the Holy Land amongst the Israelite tribes. These concepts are the antithesis of the tragic times of these days.

 

Positive potential

 

Throughout the ages our spiritual leaders have tried to focus on the positive potential which lies within the Three Weeks of mourning. The ability to transform destruction into rebirth and creativity has always been our greatest strength.

 

Witness how the State of Israel rose out of the hot ambers of the furnace that engulfed most of pre - World War II European Jewry. Our ability to see the positive and to avoid a victim mentality has seen us through the most challenging times.

 

Israel is going through a difficult time at the moment. Our brothers and sisters in Israel are fighting a ruthless and bigoted enemy. Our strength will come from looking beyond the present and seeing the bright future that lies ahead. This is what G-d promised. To quote another prophecy found in the book of Jeremiah (31:28), ““And it shall be just as I was diligent…to uproot, to smash, to destroy, to annihilate and to bring evil. So will I be diligent concerning them to build and to plant” (so said the) the word of G-d.”

 

The first part of this prophecy has been fulfilled in ample measure: the latter part too will come to fruition. Indeed its fulfilment is well over due.

 

Rabbi Levi Brackman is executive director of Judaism in the Foothills  and the author of numerous articles on a whole range of topics and issues, many of which can be found on his website .

 

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